Oil rises to new six-month high
NEW YORK (AP) ó Oil prices jumped to a new six-month high Thursday as government reports showed that consumers are spending money and fewer people are requesting first-time unemployment benefits.
Benchmark crude for July delivery added 77 cents to $64.22 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil fetched as much as $64.19 a barrel earlier in the day, the most since Nov. 5.
In London, Brent prices gained 72 cents to $63.22 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
Retail gas prices also have ticked higher every day this month as refiners produced less as the summer driving season begins.
The national average pump price increased 1.5 cents overnight to $2.449 a gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Gas is 40.1 cents a gallon more expensive than last month, but it’s still $1.495 a gallon cheaper than a year ago.
Despite the uptick in petroleum prices, U.S. energy consumption has dropped to its lowest level in a decade.
The Energy Information Administration said Thursday that U.S. storage facilities added another 106 billion cubic feet of natural gas last week, putting the overall surplus well above the five-year average.
That’s largely because manufacturers and other big industries have been slashing production and cutting jobs.
Still, data that suggests the worst may be over continues to emerge.
The government reported that demand for big-ticket manufactured goods to the biggest leap upward in 16 months in April, the second increase in the past three months. New orders have risen in two of the past three months.
The lack of spending on energy over the past several months has meant growing supplies and lower prices, compared with last year.
Later in the day, analysts expect the government to report that crude supplies grew again.
OPEC decided to keep output levels unchanged at a meeting Thursday in Vienna. Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali Naimi predicted that oil prices will likely rise to around $75 a barrel by the end of the year on the back of growing demand in Asia.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has tried to cut into the global oil surplus by producing less. But member states continue to fall short of their goal of cutting 4.2 million barrels a day.
Tanker tracker Oil Movements said Thursday that crude exports from OPEC countries increased by an estimated 310,000 barrels per day in the four weeks to June 13.
In other Nymex trading, gasoline for June delivery rose less than a penny to $1.8984 a gallon and heating oil added 2.03 cents to $1.582 a gallon. Natural gas for July delivery was up 8.3 cents at $3.721 per 1,000 cubic feet.