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Oil prices move marginally higher as bailed out Cyprus braces for a reopening of its banks

Oil prices paused Thursday after climbing more than $4 in less than a week ahead of the reopening of banks in financially troubled Cyprus.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 3 cents to $96.61 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 24 cents to close at a five-week high of $96.68 on Wednesday.

The oil market was tempered by caution before Cypriot banks reopened for the first time since March 16. The banks were shut as political leaders negotiated an emergency bailout to prevent a banking collapse. The contentious deal reached Monday will force losses on bigger depositors, which many analysts have said could spark a crisis of confidence in banking across the 17 countries that use the euro.

However, in the prior four sessions, oil has gained $4.13, driven by strong U.S. economic data. Later Thursday, the U.S. releases its final reading on fourth-quarter gross domestic product and the latest weekly claims for unemployment benefits.

The American Petroleum Institute said that crude supplies for the week ending March 22 rose by 3.7 million barrels. Ample supplies tend to keep a lid on energy prices.

Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, was up 30 cents to $109.99 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.5 cent to $3.107 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 0.3 cent to $3.04 a gallon.

— Natural gas advanced by 1.3 cents to $4.081 per 1,000 cubic feet.