Crude-oil futures prices settled higher Thursday, climbing on hopes for rising demand as the peak summer gasoline demand season approaches.
Prices also were propped up early by weakness in the dollar after disappointing U.S. economic data, including a bigger-than-expected rise in new claims for jobless benefits and a sharp drop in housing construction.
While the data suggest a sputtering recovery in the U.S. economy, which could keep limit demand growth in the world's biggest oil consumer, analyst said it was, conversely, sending bullish signals to the oil market.
"We had bad data across the board, but that just means the Fed will continue the stimulus and that is supportive for the market," said Gene McGillian, broker and analyst at Tradition Energy.
Light, sweet crude oil for June delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange settled 86 cents higher, at $95.16 a barrel. ICE North Sea Brent crude for June delivery expired 12 cents higher, at $103.80 a barrel.
Traders said the market is looking beyond signs of oversupply and weak demand and hoping for a shift in fundamentals as the peak summer driving season nears.
U.S. crude oil stocks stand near their highest level since April 1981, and demand for gasoline was weak ahead of summer driving season, while inventories have climbed.
Carl Larry, analyst at Oil Outlooks and Opinions, said traders appear to be looking beyond weekly oil inventory data with a hope that gasoline use will pick up in the summer months and that refiners will need to pare down crude oil stocks to meet consumer needs.
The Energy Information Administration projects gasoline demand will slip to a 12-year low during the peak spring-summer driving season. But demand is expected to rise seasonally to 9 million barrels a day, on average, in June-August, compared with the 8.34 million barrels a day reported by EIA for last week.
Reformulated gasoline for June delivery settled up 1.52 cents, at $2.8822 a gallon, but down from an earlier one-month intraday high. June heating oil settled 2.86 cents higher, at $2.9087 a gallon.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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