Crude Oil Gains On U.S. GDP, Jobless Data


U.S. crude gained for a fifth straight session on Thursday as positive U.S. economic data hinted at a resurgence of demand for oil in the world's largest consumer.

Traders said gains were limited by concern over whether the positive U.S. data would prompt the Federal Reserve to start curbing its monthly bond-buying program, which could reduce support for riskier assets such as commodities.

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U.S. gross domestic product grew at a revised 3.6 percent annual rate, up from a 2.8 percent pace reported earlier and above the 3.0 percent expected by economists polled by Reuters.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 298,000, declining for a third straight week.

"We seem not to be able to build any upside momentum in U.S. crude despite some pretty impressive economic releases today, but that's probably down to the fact that good news on the economy equates to bad news on the quantitative easing front," said Addison Armstrong, senior director of market research at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

U.S crude's gains came as Brent edged lower, winnowing Brent's premium to U.S. crude or West Texas Intermediate <CL-LCO1=R>, to a two-week low of $13.68 a barrel during the session.

Brent crude oil for January delivery slipped 37 cents to $111.51 a barrel by 11:42 a.m. EST (1642 GMT).

U.S. crude rose 61 cents to $97.81 a barrel, after rising more than 5 percent over the past four sessions, putting the U.S. benchmark on course for its largest weekly gain since July.

Brent's premium to U.S. crude stood at $13.70.

"Brent is down because we're unwinding that spread, long Brent, short WTI," said Phil Flynn, an energy analyst with the Price Futures Group in Chicago, Illinois.

Figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration released Wednesday showed crude inventories fell by 5.6 million barrels in the week to Nov. 29, cutting around one-sixth of the 36 million barrels that had built up over the previous 10 weeks.

The EIA data also showed distillate production rose last week to an all-time high of 5.1 million barrels a day.

Crude oil production in the United States dipped slightly last week but held above 8 million barrels per day, the data showed.

Flynn noted that an improving economy and high oil production in the United States could make the oil market less dependent on the Federal Reserve's monetary policy and more responsive to the needs of the real economy.

"When there was nothing else going on, the Fed made the economy. Now the fundamentals are at least making the oil move a little more independently," he said.


Brent crude oil prices were supported by assurances from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that core sanctions against Iran, including oil exports, would remain in place despite its interim nuclear deal with world powers.

Traders were also eyeing hurricane-force winds in the North Sea that threatened to disrupt oil supplies from the region. So far only one small oil platform has been shut.

The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed on Wednesday to keep its production target unchanged at 30 million bpd for the first half of 2014.

Expectations of higher output from some OPEC members in coming months and a continued increase from supplies in North America have left some traders questioning whether the producer group will need to curb output in the second half of 2014