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Oil, natural gas extend gains on winter storm in US, low supply report

The prices of oil and natural gas extended gains Thursday in Asia as a winter storm that slammed the U.S. and slower-than-expected supply growth raised expectations for higher energy demand.

Benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was up 23 cents to $97.61 a barrel at 0745 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 19 cents to close at $97.38 on Wednesday.

More than a million homes and businesses were left in darkness and cold on Wednesday in the U.S. Northeast after snow, sleet and freezing rain hit the region. Some states saw around a foot of snow.

Earlier in New York, natural gas rocketed to a new four-year high before falling back as cold temperatures were expected to increase demand for heating fuels.

A report from the Energy Department showed that supplies of crude oil rose much less than analysts expected last week, adding upward pressure to oil prices.

Brent crude, a benchmark for oil sold internationally, was up 12 cents at $106.37 on the ICE exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline edged up 0.8 cent to $2.649 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 0.6 cent to $2.991 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 18.7 cents to $5.217 per 1,000 cubic feet.