Crude-Oil Futures Rise as Jobs Data Sparks Gains

U.S. crude futures settled higher Thursday as investors cheered a reading on the U.S. labor market that pointed to further improvements in the broader economy.

Light, sweet crude for April delivery settled 51 cents, or 0.6%, higher at $93.03 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange for April delivery settled 90 cents higher at $109.42 a barrel.

The number of U.S. workers filing new applications for jobless benefits fell by 10,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 332,000, the Labor Department said.

The drop was below the 350,000 new applications that economists expected in a Dow Jones Newswires survey, and was the fourth decline in five weeks.

Oil markets are often boosted by better readings on the labor market, as it signals growing activity in the broader economy. With more people heading to jobs, driving typically increases, thus boosting fuel demand.

Stock markets also rose, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average recently 65 points higher at 14520, which helped prop up crude prices, according to analysts and traders.

"It's been mildly frustrating just watching broader markets, but that's what's been happening today," said Matt Smith, an analyst at energy-consulting firm Schneider Electric. "Crude turned around on this jobless claims number along with other markets...Crude's just being swept up in optimism."

After falling to nearly $90 a barrel earlier this month, oil futures have bounced higher. But some market watchers are skeptical that futures will keep adding to recent gains amid weak global fuel demand and high supplies.

On Wednesday, the International Energy Agency slightly reduced its global demand outlook for 2013. The group sees oil demand growing by 820,000 barrels a day this year, down 200,000 barrels a day from its earlier forecast.

And in the U.S., the Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that domestic crude supply relative to refiner demand climbed to a 21-year high.

Front-month April reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 0.10 cent lower at $3.1413 a gallon. April heating oil settled 0.53 cent, or 0.2%, higher at $2.9295 a gallon.


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