Oil rises ahead of US industrial production data

Associated Press

The price of oil rose to near $94 on Friday ahead of the release of U.S. industrial production and manufacturing figures that analysts expect to show an improving economy.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for April delivery was up 60 cents to $93.63 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 51 cents to close at $93.03 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

Traders expect to see improvement in U.S. industrial production for February when the Federal Reserve releases the details later Friday. Analysts at Capital Economics said in a market commentary that they expect a month-on-month increase of 0.6 percent.

"February's employment and hours worked data suggest that manufacturing output also increased," the analysts said, "so we wouldn't be surprised to see something of a rebound in February."

Oil's rise on Thursday was attributed to favorable U.S. employment data, offsetting news about ample crude supplies and worries about the eurozone economy. Weekly U.S. jobless claims fell by a greater-than-anticipated 10,000 to 332,000, helping to sustain hopes over the U.S. labor market.

Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, was up $1.14 to $110.10 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Experts said Brent's rise was due partly to reports of decreasing oil exports from Iran — which is enduring sanctions from Western powers because of its nuclear program — and expectations about aggravated geopolitical tensions in the Middle East related to the upcoming visit to Israel by U.S. President Barack Obama.

A weaker dollar was also supporting oil prices, making crude cheaper for traders using other currencies. On Friday, the euro was up at $1.3090 from $1.3010 late Thursday in new York.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline added 2.64 cents to $3.1561 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 3.13 cents to $3.0444 a gallon.

— Natural gas climbed 7.7 cents to $3.889 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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