US oil closes at $38.34, surges 13 pct in March

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U.S. oil prices closed slightly higher on Thursday,and posted their largest monthly gain in almost a year and also a quarterly rise, helped by a weak dollar and data showing a drawdown in crude stocks atthe U.S. futures delivery hub.


Brent crude futures rose 31 cents to $39.57 abarrel. June Brent, which will be front-month from Friday, was up 1.3 percent.


On a monthly basis, Brent's front-month was on trackto a 10 percent gain for March — its best since April 2015 — and a 6 percentrise in the first quarter.


The front-month contract for U.S. crude futuresclosed 2 cents higher, at $38.34 a barrel, after dropping to $37.57, the lowestsince March 16. It also posted a 13 percent gain in March and 3 percent for thequarter.


The dollar hit a mid-October low, making greenback-denominatedoil more attractive to holders of the euro and other currencies.


Data from market intelligence firm Genscape showed a807,496-barrel drawdown in stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma delivery hub forU.S. crude futures in the week to March 29, traders said.


Inventories at Cushing have receded from recordhighs for two consecutive weeks, with U.S. government data on Wednesday showinga 272,000-barrel drawdown in the week ending March 25.


In a Reuters poll, oil analysts raised their averageprice forecasts for 2016 for the first time in 10 months but cautioned therally could fade near term.


Analysts also expect an April 17 meeting of majoroil producers in Doha to discuss the output freeze to fall short ofexpectations.