The recent surge in oil futures showed no sign of abating Thursday as the commodity ended the day at $110.30 a barrel.
The $1.47 day-on-day gain followed a report by NATO that Libyan forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi have attacked the Sarir oil field, resulting in a fire at one or more oil facilities nearby. Earlier Gaddafi had blamed NATO coalition forces with setting the fire, but the mission's commander denied the accusation.
"We have never conducted strike operations in this area because his forces were not threatening civilian population centers from there," said Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, Commander of NATO's Operation Unified Protector, in a written statement. "The only one responsible for this fire is the Gaddafi regime and we know he wants to disrupt oil getting to Tobruk," where terminal and port facilities are located.
Also providing a boost for crude oil was a report by the U.S. Labor Department showing a decrease in first-time jobless claims for the week ending April 2. According to the agency, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance fell 2.5 percent week-on-week to 382,000. For the same period last year, the number of claimants was 472,000.
The price of May crude fluctuated from $108.23 to $110.26 Thursday.
Moderating temperatures throughout the eastern half of the U.S. contributed to a nine-cent drop in natural gas futures Thursday. Natural gas for May delivery settled at $4.06 per thousand cubic feet after trading within a range from $4.03 to $4.16.
May gasoline held flat at $3.19 a gallon Thursday. It peaked at $3.20 and bottomed out at $3.16.
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