By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for April delivery was up 26 cents to $92.78 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 2 cents on Wednesday.
A brightening employment picture in the U.S. has helped propel the Dow Jones industrial average to a record high earlier this month, supporting commodity prices as well. On Thursday, new data showed that weekly U.S. jobless claims fell by a greater than anticipated 10,000 to 332,000, helping to sustain hopes over the U.S. labour market.
Concern over ample stockpiles of crude in the U.S. kept a rein on prices, however.
On Wednesday, the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said crude supplies rose by 2.6 million barrels to 384 million barrels for the week ended March 8. Analysts had expected an increase of 2.3 million barrels. The increase puts oil in storage 10.5 per cent higher than levels one year earlier.
Sickly European economies are also keeping oil prices down.
Official statistics released Wednesday showed that industrial production across the 17 euro countries fell by a worse-than-expected 0.4 per cent in January. Both Germany and France, the two industrial powerhouses in the region, registered drops in production.
Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, was up $1.13 to $109.65 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline lost 1.35 cents to $3.1183 a gallon.
— Heating oil fell 0.14 cent to $3.0104 a gallon.
— Natural gas added 6.6 cents to $3.746 per 1,000 cubic feet.
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