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Oil rose a fourth day in New York as the number of applications for unemployment benefits in the U.S. fell to the lowest level since April 2008, bolstering optimism that economic growth will accelerate.
Futures advanced as much as 0.7 percent after the Labor Department said that jobless claims dropped by 4,000 to 364,000 last week. The median forecast of 45 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News projected an increase to 380,000. U.S. oil supplies declined the most in a decade last week, an Energy Department report showed yesterday.
Crude oil for February delivery rose 80 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $99.47 a barrel at 9:38 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures touched $99.50, the highest level since Dec. 14. Prices have risen 8.9 percent this year after climbing 15 percent in 2010.
Brent oil for February settlement increased 43 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $108.14 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange.
U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell 10.6 million barrels last week, the largest decrease since February 2001, yesterday’s Energy Department report showed.
New York oil will average a record $100 a barrel next year as the U.S. averts recession, while Brent will decline from the 2011 mean, according to a Bloomberg News survey of analysts.
The $100 forecast for West Texas Intermediate oil, the U.S. benchmark, is based on the median of 27 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg, topping the all-time high of $99.75 set in 2008. WTI is on course to average $95 a barrel this year. Brent will average $109 next year, compared with $110.98 so far this year, a survey of 28 analysts showed.
Oil is up 25 percent this quarter, the biggest gain since the second quarter of 2009, as the European Union and the U.S. seek support from the Middle East and Asia for sanctions against Iran, the second-biggest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
EU nations, the U.S. and Asia-Pacific allies discussed possible measures in Rome on Dec. 20 and vowed to increase pressure on Iran to abandon a suspected nuclear weapons program, according to an Italian Foreign Ministry statement.
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