U.S. OIL PRICES UP
U.S. oil prices rose to a five-week high Friday after U.S. macroeconomic data reflected stronger inflationary pressure and improving consumer sentiment.
Light, sweet crude for May delivery settled up 34 cents, or 0.3%, at $103.74 a barrel, the highest since March 3, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on ICE Futures Europe ended the day down 13 cents, or 0.1%, at $107.33 a barrel.
U.S. oil prices started the day's trade lower but began to perk up after the Labor Department said the March producer price index, a gauge of U.S. inflation, rose a seasonally adjusted 0.5% from February. A common case for commodity investment is as a hedge against inflation.
The PPI report was followed by a Thomson-Reuters/University of Michigan survey showing early-April consumer sentiment in the U.S. was at its highest level since July.
Prices rose as high as $104.44 a barrel after the data, then pulled back a little in an end-of-session selloff as traders closed out positions heading into the weekend. For the week, the Nymex contract gained 2.6%, the biggest weekly rise since December.
One element of support for the petroleum markets has been data showing falling gasoline stockpiles as the U.S. approaches summer, when more drivers hit the roads and increase demand for the fuel, Citigroup said in a note. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said this week that gas stockpiles declined 5.4 million barrels in the week ended April 4, bringing it well below year-ago and five-year average levels.
Analysts have been citing the data as a potential catalyst across the petroleum complex. Prices have risen 8% this year, settling up 0.65 cent Friday at $3.0144 a gallon.
"Gasoline continues to be strong," said Jefferies senior vice president Andrew Lebow. "Inventories (fell) unexpectedly this week."
May diesel finished down 0.58 cent at $2.9332 a gallon.
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