Front-month crude settled nearly flat on Thursday as concerns grew of slowing U.S. economic growth.
Light, sweet oil retreated earlier highs to end the trading session at $112.86 a barrel, 10 cents higher than the previous day. Crude prices peaked as high as $113.97 a barrel. On Thursday, a weaker dollar provided support for crude prices. Likewise, the Dollar Index, which compares the greenback to a basket of foreign currencies, fell to its lowest level since July 31, 2008.
Although the U.S. economy grew by 1.8 percent in the first quarter, investors remain weary of the economy. At Wednesday's press conference, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said he didn't know when the Fed would tighten interest rates. Investors interpreted Wednesday's comments as the economy not being strong enough to handle higher interest rates.
According to the U.S. Labor Department, initial unemployment claims soared to their highest in three months. Analysts fear this could mean fewer cars on the road as it gets closer to the summer driving season.
Meanwhile, natural gas rallied Thursday after government reports signaled an increase in demand. Natural gas for June delivery rose 3.7 percent, settling at $4.571 per thousand cubic feet. Prices fluctuated between $4.396 and $4.599, before ending the day at their highest since Jan. 24.
During the week ended April 22, 31 billion cubic feet of gas was added to stockpiles, as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
May gasoline hit fresh 33-month highs settling at $3.43 a gallon. The intraday range for gasoline was $3.39 to $3.48 Thursday.
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