US crude settled up US$2.99 at US$106.5 a barrel, posting its biggest daily rise since May and its largest three-week increase since March 2011. Data from USA showed the biggest two-week decline in crude stockpiles, propping up crude oil prices by nearly US$3 a barrel to their highest in 16 months. US crude oil inventories plunged about 10 mln barrels for a second week in a row, highlighting the unexpectedly rapid tightening of the market after three years of pent-up supply due to a dramatic resurgence in domestic production. US crude has outperformed Brent for nine out of the past ten sessions, narrowing their spread to a 2-1/2 year-low of about US$2
Prices dipped only marginally after the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve meeting in June - an event that set off a rout in many financial markets over fears that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke would begin tapering stimulus measures - which showed many officials wanted more reassurance the employment recovery was on solid ground before a policy retreat.