Oil rose to a high for the week after a positive reading on the U.S. job market, as natural gas plunged on a surprisingly large increase in the nation’s supplies.
Benchmark oil for July delivery gained $1.02 to finish at $94.76 a barrel, the highest close since May 28. Earlier in the session, crude hit $95.32 a barrel.
Natural gas dropped 17 cents, or 4.1 percent, to end at $3.83 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Oil prices received support from the latest government unemployment update. The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 11,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 346,000, a level consistent with steady job growth. The claims figures come a day ahead of the monthly payrolls report, which often sets the tone across financial markets for a week or two after its release. The monthly report is expected to show the unemployment rate remained at a four-year low of 7.5 percent.
Natural gas sank after the government released weekly supply numbers. Natural gas supplies tend to rise at this time of year, between the heating and air conditioning seasons. The report showed supplies rose by 111 billion cubic feet to 2.252 trillion cubic feet for the week ended May 31. That was well above the average increase for the last week of May, of 82 billion cubic feet to 98 billion, according to the daily newsletter The Schork Report.
Natural gas futures have dropped 43 cents, or 10 percent, in the last two weeks.
At the gas pump, the average price for a gallon of gas inched higher to $3.63 a gallon. That’s 10 cents higher than a month ago and 6 cents more than at this time last year.
Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, rose 57 cents to finish at $103.61 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:
- Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to end at $2.85 a gallon.
- Heating oil added 2 cents to finish at $2.87 per gallon.
In other trading, gold and silver finished higher Thursday.
Gold for August delivery rose $17.30 to settle at $1,415.80 an ounce. July silver gained 23.5 cents to $22.71 an ounce.
July platinum ended the day up $18.70 to $1,529.30 an ounce. September palladium rose $5.85 to $762.30. July copper was down 5.25 cents to $3.3190 a pound.
Grains were mixed, with wheat and soybeans lower. Corn was higher. July wheat lost 3.75 cents to $6.9775 a bushel, and soybeans gave up 4.75 cents a bushel to $5.4825. Corn added 6 cents to $5.4825 per bushel.