The restart of refineries in the storm-hit northeastern United States helped lift oil prices on Thursday.

Benchmark oil for December delivery rose 7 cents at late afternoon Bangkok time to $86.31 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 56 cents to finish at $86.24 per barrel in New York.

Nine oil refineries that make up 8 percent of U.S. refining capacity sit in the region hit by superstorm Sandy. Nearly all were affected by the storm, and two still were not operating late Wednesday.

Crude prices were up "following reports that a number of key Northeastern refineries were back in operation after Hurricane Sandy, which was seen bolstering near term demand for crude oil," CME Group said in an energy market report.

The largest refinery by capacity, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, was in excellent condition and awaiting crude shipments. Normal operations were reported at four other refineries.

Meanwhile, The American Petroleum Institute said crude oil stocks rose by 2.1 million barrels to 371.7 million for the week ending Oct. 26.

Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, fell 23 cents to $108.47 per barrel in London.

In other trading:

— Heating oil fell 2.2 cents to $3.0406 per gallon.

— Natural gas rose 4 cents to $3.732 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Wholesale gasoline rose 0.5 cents to $2.6076 per gallon.