Investing.com - Brent and West Texas Intermediate oil futures surged nearly 2% on Thursday, as concerns over escalating violence in Iraq boosted prices.
On the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil for August delivery rose to a session high of $111.79 a barrel, the most since March 3, before paring gains to last trade at $111.21 a barrel during U.S. morning hours, up 1.68%, or $1.84.
Elsewhere, on the New York Mercantile Exchange, U.S. crude oilfor delivery in July rallied 1.54%, or $1.61, to trade at $106.01. Nymex oil hit a daily high of $106.52 earlier, the most since September 19, 2013.
Iraqi insurgents linked to al-Qaeda reportedly took full control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk on Thursday and moved closer to the capital, Baghdad.
On Wednesday, militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, seized the northern cities of Mosul and Tikrit, renewing concerns over a disruption to supplies from the region.
The U.S. said that it is working with Iraq''s leaders on a coordinated response to regain lost territory and would provide additional assistance to Baghdad.
Meanwhile, investors digested data showing that U.S. retail sales rose less than expected in May but the previous month was revised higher, while a separate report showed that initial jobless claims rose only slightly last week.
The Commerce Department said U.S. retail sales rose 0.3% in May, falling short of expectations for a 0.6% gain. However, retail sales for April were revised up to a 0.5% gain from a previously reported increase of 0.1%.
Core retail sales, which exclude automobile sales, eased up 0.1% in May, disappointing forecasts for a 0.2% increase. Core sales in April were revised up to 0.4% from a previously reported flat reading.
At the same time, the Labor Department reported that the number of people filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending June 7 increased by 4,000 to 317,000. The consensus forecast had been for a decline of 3,000.
The unexpected increase in jobless claims was not seen as altering the view that the labor market is continuing to gradually improve.