Oil Prices Tick Higher as Stimulus Angst Fades


Brent crude oil rose for a fourth session on Thursday to above $102 a barrel, supported as investor conviction strengthened that monetary stimulus from major central banks would stay in place for the time being.

Brent crude for August delivery rose 44 cents to $102.10 a barrel by 0841 GMT, after settling 40 cents higher at $101.66 a barrel in the previous session.

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It was on track for its longest stretch of daily gains since mid-March.

U.S. crude was up 24 cents at $95.74 a barrel.

U.S. GDP data on Wednesday that slashed its estimate of first-quarter economic growth convinced investors that the Federal Reserve would be in no hurry to scale back its massive bond buying programme.

Also reassuring the market, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi highlighted downside risks to euro zone growth and said monetary policy will stay accommodative.

"Investors are convinced that there is still plenty of shelf life for the policy of pumping money into the economy," said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC markets.

Data on Thursday showing German joblessness unexpectedly fell in June also encouraged buyers into the market.

"The German unemployment numbers are good and investors are accentuating the positive," Hewson said.

Gains in oil were capped by strong global stockpiles.

Data on Wednesday showed an unexpected spike in gasoline inventories in the U.S. during its summer driving season.

U.S. gasoline stocks surged 3.65 million barrels in the week ended June 21, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected a more modest build of 900,000 barrels.

Brent is down more than 7 percent for the quarter so far.

It is set for a third straight quarterly loss, after having slipped last week when Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke signalled the U.S. central bank may ease off bond buying and on concerns of an economic slowdown in China.

This will be the longest period of quarterly losses since late 1997 into 1998.

Investors are now turning their attention to U.S. nonfarm payrolls data due next week to gain further clarity on the U.S. economy and prospects for monetary policy.

"This is the more definitive number for the Federal Reserve, because we know that they are comfortable with inflation levels, but unemployment is still not where they want it to be," said Lee Chen Hoay, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore. (Additional reporting by Luke Pachymuthu in Singapore; editing by James Jukwey)