Investing.com - Crude prices rose on Thursday after better-than-expected U.S. retail sales data sparked demand for the growth-sensitive commodity, though soft Chinese production figures capped gains.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in April traded at $98.35 a barrel during U.S. trading, up 0.37%. New York-traded oil futures hit a session low of $97.68 a barrel and a high of $98.60 a barrel.
The April contract settled down 2.04% at $97.99 a barrel on Wednesday.
Nymex oil futures were likely to find support at $97.57 a barrel, Wednesday''s low, and resistance at $102.89 a barrel, Friday''s high.
Oil prices found reason to rise on better-than-expected retail sales and jobless claims data.
The Commerce Department reported that U.S. retail sales rose 0.3% in February, ending two months of declines and better than market expectations for a 0.2% increase.
Core retail sales, which exclude automobile sales, also rose 0.3% last month, ahead of expectations for a 0.2% rise.
Separately, the Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing initial jobless claims in the U.S. fell by 9,000 to a three-month low of 315,000 last week.
Analysts had expected initial jobless claims to rise by 6,000 last week.
The numbers painted a picture of a U.S. economy that is on the mend, poised to demand more fuel and energy going forward.
Soft production figures out of China offset U.S. data.
Chinese industrial production rose 8.6% in the first two months of 2014, according to data released on Thursday, missing market expectations for a 9.5% increase, while Chinese retail sales rose by 11.8%, beneath market forecasts for a 13.5% gain.
The Asian nation is the world''s second largest oil consumer after the U.S. and has been the engine of strengthening demand.
Investors also remained wary as tensions between Russia and the West remained high ahead of Sunday''s referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea region, now controlled by pro-Russian forces, on whether citizens want to join Russia.
Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for May delivery were down 0.15% and trading at US$107.19 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at US$9.27 a barrel.
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