Commodity Corner: Crude Ends Lower on Economic Data

September oil futures settled at a six-week low Thursday after disappointing U.S. economic data reinforced concerns about demand in a tepid economic recovery.

Initial claims rose by 12,000 to hit the half-million mark last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The first-time benefits peaked at a nine-month high last week -- the highest number since Nov. 14, 2009. Additionally, the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia reported a decline in its index of general business activity for the mid-Atlantic region during August.

Analysts claim that the listless economic growth is caused by the pressure oil prices face from inventories that stand at the highest
level since 1983. The price of a barrel of crude oil settled at $74.43 Thursday, trading from $73.96 to $76.10.

Natural gas prices also fell Thursday, settling 6.8 cents lower at $4.17 per thousand cubic feet. EIA reported that working natural gas in storage increased to 3.012 trillion cubic feet, a 27 billion cubic feet increase from the previous week. However, stocks were still 185 billion cubic feet lower than inventories for the corresponding period in 2009.

The price of gasoline for September delivery settled 3.25 cents lower at $1.93 a gallon Thursday. The intraday range was $1.92 to $1.97.