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Prices on the rise

Several days of strong buying have pushed oil prices back into the mid-$90/b range. On Monday, the market consolidated gains of more than $8/b in the past week. In London, the price for Brent crude for April delivery had increased to more than $95/b. In New York, the contract for March delivery of light sweet crude oil traded at up to $96.24/b.

The legal wrangle between ExxonMobil and the Venezuelan government continues to add strength to prices, despite assurances from President Hugo Chávez that the country will not stop oil exports to the US. Chávez says Venezuela would only consider cutting supply to its most important market "if [the US] attacks Venezuela or tries to harm us". However, the market remains vulnerable to sabre-rattling from either side.   Meanwhile, with the continued outage of some 1m b/d of oil from Nigeria and disruptions in the North Sea, better economic news from the US last week also added support to oil prices. In addition, the Federal Reserve has hinted that it may cut interest rates again to prevent a fu

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