NYMEX-Crude extends gains above $98, near 4-month high

TOKYO Thu Jan 31, 2013 5:37am IST

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, adjusts her flower garlands as she campaigns for her mother during an election meeting at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

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TOKYO Jan 31 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures rose for a fourth day on Thursday to above $98 a barrel, holding near a four-and-a-half month high hit a day earlier, supported by better-than-expected European economic data that improved the outlook for global fuel demand.

FUNDAMENTALS

* NYMEX crude for March delivery was up 7 cents at $98.01 a barrel by 2355 GMT, after settling up 37 cents at $97.94 on Wednesday.

The contract hit an intraday high of $98.24 on Wednesday, the highest since $99.52 hit on Sept. 17.

* London Brent crude for March delivery had not been traded yet, after settling up 54 cents at $114.90. The contract rose as high as $115.24 on Wednesday, the highest since Oct. 16.

* Euro zone economic sentiment improved more than expected across all sectors in January, rising for the third month in a row in a sign that the region's economy could be emerging from a low point in the fourth quarter of 2012.

* Wednesday's gains were pared after data showed the U.S. economy unexpectedly contracted in the fourth quarter, suffering its first decline since the 2007-09 recession as businesses scaled back on restocking and government spending plunged.

* U.S. crude oil inventories jumped by 5.95 million barrels in the week to Jan. 25, the U.S. government said. Analysts had forecast a 2.6-million-barrel crude build.

Gasoline inventories fell by 956,000 barrels during the week, against forecasts for a 100,000 barrel draw. Distillate stockpiles were off by 2.3 million barrels, compared with expectations for a 1.1-million-barrel decline.

* Front-month U.S. gasoline futures shot up more than 2 percent on Wednesday to top $3 a gallon for the first time since late September as the market was bolstered by tight supplies ahead of the February contract's expiry on Thursday.

* Supply risks from the Middle East also supported oil prices. Israeli forces attacked a convoy suspected to include a truck carrying weapons on the Syria-Lebanon border on Wednesday, sources told Reuters.

MARKETS NEWS

* U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve said in its latest statement that economic growth had stalled but indicated the pullback was likely temporary.

* The euro held near a 14-month peak against the dollar and a 2-1/2 year high versus the yen on Thursday, having risen solidly as investors expect central banks in both the United States and Japan to keep an aggressive easing stance.

DATA/EVENTS

* The following data is expected on Thursday: (Time in GMT)

- 1230 U.S. Challenger layoffs Jan

- 1330 U.S. Personal consumption, income Dec

- 1330 U.S. Initial jobless claims

- 1445 U.S. Chicago PMI Jan (Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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