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Oil headed for its biggest weekly gain in almost two months in New York after U.S. economic reports indicated that growth in the world’s biggest crude consumer will accelerate.
Futures rose as much as 0.6 percent, extending yesterday’s gain of 0.9 percent after U.S. initial jobless claims dropped to the lowest level since April 2008. Leading indicators climbed more than forecast in November, and consumer sentiment improved this month. Oil supplies fell the most in a decade last week, the Energy Department said Dec. 21.
U.S. initial unemployment claims fell by 4,000 to 364,000 last week, Labor Department figures showed yesterday. The Conference Board’s gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months rose 0.5 percent, versus a median forecast of 0.3 percent in a Bloomberg survey. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of consumer sentiment increased more than expected in December.
Crude may rise next week on speculation that sanctions against Iran will curb supply from the world’s third-largest oil exporter, a separate Bloomberg survey showed.
The European Union and the U.S. are seeking support from the Middle East and Asia for sanctions to increase pressure on Iran to abandon a suspected nuclear weapons program. Iran’s navy will hold 10 days of maneuvers east of the Strait of Hormuz, state-run Fars news agency reported yesterday, citing Navy Commander Habibollah Sayari.
Crude for February delivery was at $99.78 a barrel, up 25 cents, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 3:15 p.m. Singapore time. The contract yesterday rose 86 cents to $99.53, the highest settlement since Dec. 13. Prices are up 6.7 percent this week, the biggest gain since the period ended Oct. 28. Futures have climbed 9.3 percent this year after increasing 15 percent in 2010.
Brent oil for February was trading at $108.09 a barrel, up 20 cents, on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European contract’s premium to Nymex crude was $8.19 a barrel, compared with a close yesterday of $8.36 that was the smallest differential since March 8. The spread surged to a record $27.88 on Oct. 14.
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