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Oil gains; AAA says prepare for higher pump prices

NEW YORK — Oil prices rose Thursday as a positive report on the US labor market and cold temperatures boosted expectations for higher demand for heating oil.

Benchmark US crude for March delivery rose 46 cents to $97.84 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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Demand for heating oil is strong. That should boost refineries’ need for crude oil.

Cold weather has had the opposite effect on demand for gasoline, though: Drivers hunkering down in their homes don’t use cars as much. The average price for a gallon of gas is $3.27, down 5 cents from Jan. 1.

Still, AAA said gas prices will soon be rising. Refineries are starting to shut down for winter maintenance, which reduces supply. They also gradually switch to more expensive summer blends over the coming weeks.

For all of 2014, AAA expects the nationwide average to be at least five cents cheaper than last year’s $3.49.

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