U.S. oil prices rose to a nine-week high on Thursday, after data showed that that the number of people who filed for unemployment assistance in the U.S. last week fell more-than-expected, adding to signs the U.S. economy is strengthening.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in February traded at USD99.45 a barrel during U.S. morning trade, up 0.25%. New York-traded oil futures rose to a session high of USD99.51 a barrel earlier, the strongest level since October 22.
Nymex oil futures were likely to find support at USD98.53 a barrel, the low from December 23 and resistance at USD100.29 a barrel, the high from October 22.
The February contract settled 0.31% higher on Tuesday to end at USD99.22 a barrel. There was no floor or electronic trading on Wednesday because of the Christmas holiday.
Volumes were expected to remain light on Thursday, with year-end positioning and profit-taking driving flows.
The U.S. Department of Labor said earlier that the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits declined by 42,000 to a seasonally adjusted 338,000 last week. Analysts had expected U.S. jobless claims to fall by 35,000 to 345,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 380,000, which was the highest since March.
Meanwhile, market players looked ahead to U.S. weekly supply data to gauge the strength of oil demand from the world’s largest consumer.
After markets closed Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said that U.S. crude inventories rose by 500,000 barrels in the week ended December 20. The data also showed that gasoline stockpiles fell by 2.5 million barrels.
The more closely-watched numbers from the U.S. Energy Information Administration have been delayed until Friday due to the Christmas holiday.
U.S. crude futures, also known as West Texas Intermediate or WTI, have been well-supported in recent weeks amid indications the U.S. economy is gaining momentum.
Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for February delivery inched down 0.1% to trade at USD111.79 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at USD12.34 a barrel.
London-traded Brent prices rallied to a three-week high of USD112.05 a barrel on Tuesday, amid ongoing concerns over a disruption to supplies from Libya and South Sudan.
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