Commodity Corner: Oil Settles at $76.51

August oil futures gained 16 cents Thursday as traders were buoyed by positive signs about factory orders and unemployment.

Oil settled at $76.51 after the U.S. Commerce Department announced that factory orders for goods other than automobiles and aircraft increased by 0.9% in May. Also, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that seasonally adjusted first-time claims for unemployment insurance declined by 19,000 last week to 457,000. In addition, the value of the euro against the greenback increased. The U.S. Dollar weakened after the Federal Reserve reiterated its intent to keep interest rates steady in an effort to help the economy. Crude oil traded from $75.32 to $76.57 Thursday.

The front-month price for natural gas fell by a nickel Thursday, settling at $4.75 per thousand cubic feet, after a government report showed an increase in natural gas inventories for the week ended June 18. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, natural gas in storage increased by 81 billion cubic feet to more than 2.6 trillion cubic feet. Although current inventories remain well above the five-year (2005-2009) average, this year's inventories have fallen below last year's for the first time since April, the DOE's Energy Information Administration reported. The agency noted that net injections for the past six consecutive weeks were lower than last year's. Thursday's July futures price fluctuated from $4.70 to $4.86.

The price of a gallon of gasoline settled at $2.09 Thursday, up a penny from the previous day's session. The intraday range for gasoline was $2.06 to $2.10.