- Crude futures rose on Thursday as doubts arose as to whether armed protesters in Libya will allow oil exports to resume from seized ports.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude oil for delivery in May traded at $99.99 a barrel during U.S. trading, up 0.37%. New York-traded oil futures hit a session low of $99.08 a barrel and a high of $100.17 a barrel.

The May contract settled down 0.12% at $99.62 a barrel on Wednesday.

Nymex oil futures were likely to find support at $98.87 a barrel, Wednesday''s low, and resistance at $101.96 a barrel, Monday''s high.

Hopes that oil ports held by armed protestors along the Libyan coast may begin shipments soon faded on Friday, and expectations for the impasse to drag on and bottleneck global supplies sent prices climbing.

An eight-month standoff between protestors and the government may end within days due to an agreement between both sides, though investors remained cautious until oil actually begins flowing from the Libyan coast.

Libya uncertainty offset hit-or-miss data out of the U.S.

The Labor Department reported earlier that the number of individuals filing for unemployment assistance last week increased by 10,000 to 326,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 310,000.

Analysts had expected jobless claims to rise by 7,000 to 317,000 last week.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Supply Management said its non-manufacturing purchasing managers'' index rose to 53.1 in March from 51.6 in February, just shy of expectations for a 53.5 reading though still an improvement nonetheless.

A separate report showed that the U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly widened to $42.3 billion in February from a deficit of $39.28 billion the previous month.

Analysts had expected the U.S. trade deficit to narrow to $38.5 billion.

Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for May delivery were up 0.88%, trading at US$105.72 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at US$5.73 a barrel.

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