U.S. oil futures traded just below a two-month high on Thursday, as investors shrugged off a flurry of disappointing U.S. economic data.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in February traded at USD98.46 a barrel during U.S. morning trade, up 0.4%. New York-traded oil futures rose to session high of USD98.71 a barrel earlier, the strongest level since December 11, when prices hit a two-month high.
Nymex oil futures were likely to find support at USD96.52 a barrel, the low from December 16 and near-term resistance at USD98.74 a barrel, the high from December 11.
The February contract rallied to USD98.30 a barrel on Wednesday, the highest since December 11, before setting at USD98.06, up 0.61%.
The National Association of Realtors said earlier that existing home sales declined 4.3% to a seasonally adjusted 4.90 million units last month from 5.12 million in October. Analysts had expected U.S. existing home sales to fall 1.5% to 5.03 million units in November.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that its manufacturing index improved to 7.0 this month from November’s reading of 6.5. Analysts had expected the index to rise to a reading of 10.0 in December.
A separate report showed that the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits increased by 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 379,000, the highest since late March.
The Fed announced Wednesday that it would reduce its USD85 billion-a-month bond buying program by USD10 billion in January amid indications the U.S. economic recovery is deepening.
The U.S. central bank reiterated that interest rates are likely to remain low even after the unemployment rate drops below 6.5%, the threshold at which the Fed has previously said it would start to consider rate increases.
The U.S. is the world’s largest oil consuming nation.
Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for February delivery inched up 0.25% to trade at USD109.92 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at USD11.46 a barrel.
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