06/13/2013 03:20 EDT | Updated 08/13/2013 05:12 EDT

Oil rises above US$96 a barrel with boost from US data on jobs, retail sales

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The price of oil rose above US$96 a barrel Thursday on signs of steady hiring and resilient consumer spending in the United States.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for July delivery gained 81 cents to close at US$96.69 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

A pair of economic reports in the U.S. boosted oil.

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to 334,000 last week, below what economists had expected, the government said. Another report showed that U.S. retail sales increased 0.6 per cent in May from April. That's the fastest pace since February.

Elsewhere the economic news didn't bode as well for energy demand.

The World Bank now expects the economy of the eurozone, the 17 countries sharing the euro currency, to contract by 0.6 per cent this year. Its previous forecast was for a 0.1 per cent contraction.

Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, was up 76 cents to end at US$104.25 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex, wholesale gasoline added five cents to finish at US$2.86 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil gained four cents to end at US$2.94 a gallon and natural gas rose four cents to finish at $3.81 per 1,000 cubic feet.