Investing.com - Crude prices rose on Thursday after data revealed fewer individuals filed for jobless assistance last week, which left investors concluding the U.S. economy continues to recover despite a step back here and there and will consume more fuel and energy going forward.
Gains were muted as many investors remained on the sidelines to await the release of Friday''s January jobs report.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in March traded at USD97.62 a barrel during U.S. trading, up 0.25%. New York-traded oil futures hit a session low of USD97.24 a barrel and a high of USD98.82 a barrel.
The March contract settled up 0.20% at USD97.38 a barrel on Wednesday.
Nymex oil futures were likely to find support at USD97.44 a barrel, the earlier low, and resistance at USD98.82 a barrel, the earlier high.
The Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell by 20,000 to 331,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 351,000. Analysts were expecting jobless claims to fall by 16,000.
A separate report showed that the U.S. trade deficit widened significantly in December, as exports dropped 2.2% and imports rose 1.6%.
Poor U.S. manufacturing data released earlier in the week sparked concerns over a possible slowdown in the economic recovery that softened oil prices.
Growing sentiments that harsh winter weather may be bruising economic indicators and not waning demand gave oil some support, though many traders were eager to see more data to support that notion, Friday''s jobs report especially.
Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for March delivery were up 0.59% and trading at 106.88 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at 9.26 a barrel.