Crude Oil Inches Higher In Asia Amid FOMC Minutes

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Crude oil futures rose in early Asian trade on thin volumes after an influential forecaster predicted that a market rally was not far off and U.S. Federal Reserve minutes suggested there was no hurry to raise rates.

The gains added to a surge in prices on Thursday, with Brent crude, the global benchmark, on track for a near 11-percent gain this week, the biggest weekly rise since early 2009.

Brent was up 25 cents at $53.30 a barrel at 0306 GMT. The contract rose $1.72 to close at $53.05 a barrel on Thursday.

U.S. crude was 23 cents higher at $49.66 a barrel, after climbing 3.4 percent to close at $49.43 a barrel.

U.S. crude is heading for a gain of about 9 percent this week, the biggest weekly increase since August. The contract rose to above $50 on Thursday, the highest since July 22.

PIRA Energy Group, a closely watched forecaster that predicted the slump in oil prices a year ago, said on Thursday it expected crude prices to rise to $70 per barrel by the end of 2016 and $75 a barrel in 2017.

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