RTTNews - Crude oil finished modestly higher Thursday as data showed the German and French economies saw growth in the second quarter, boosting the outlook for global energy demand. A weaker dollar also improved oil's hedge value.

Light sweet crude moved at $70.52 per barrel, up 36 cents on the session. Oil earlier touched as high as $72.21.

The dollar extended its recent downward trend against the euro. Commodities usually often moves opposite the dollar because of the hedge value.

The Eurozone economy contracted slightly in the second quarter as Germany and France emerged out of recession, giving positive signals of an early recovery. The flash estimate from the Luxembourg-based Eurostat showed that the euro area shrank 0.1% sequentially in the second quarter. This was much slower than the 2.5% decline seen in the first quarter and an expected 0.5% contraction.

In the U.S., a Commerce Department report showed that retail sales edged down 0.1 percent in July following an upwardly revised 0.8 percent increase in the previous month. The decrease surprises economists, who had expected sales to increase by 0.8 percent compared to the 0.6 percent increase originally reported for June.

The Labor Department report showed that import prices fell 0.7 percent in July following a 2.6 percent increase in prices in June. Export prices edged down 0.3 percent in July after rising 1.0 percent in the previous month.

A separate Labor Department report showed that initial jobless claims edged up to 558,000 from the previous week's revised figured of 554,000. Economists had been expecting claims to slip to 545,000 from the 550,000 originally reported for the previous week.

In other energy trading, natural gas dropped 14.3 cents to close at at $3.336 per million British thermal units. EIA data revealed natural gas inventories increased by 63 billion cubic feet in the week ended August 7.

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