Crude futures climbed nearly $2 on Thursday as economic data from Japan and the U.S. diminished worries about a worldwide recession. Prices were also supported by supply concerns.

Futures rose after a report today showed Japan's economic expansion doubled forecasts, reaching 3.7 percent in the last quarter of 2007. The progress spurred the greatest growth in Japanese stock markets in six years.

Helping crude's advance, equity markets in the U.S. climbed on Thursday as retail sales rose 0.3 percent in January, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday.

In addition, a government report released today showed U.S. unemployment claims dropped more than expected last week easing fears of an economic recession. A separate report from the Commerce Department indicated that the trade deficit fell in December meaning the country has increased exports of goods.

Japan and the United States are within the top 3 consumers of oil in the world. Both countries represent 30 percent of global usage of crude.

Crude oil futures rose $1.91 or 2.05 percent to $95.18a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 4:08 p.m. Brent crude for March gained $2.19 or 2.19 percent to $95.46 a barrel on London's ICE Futures Exchange.

Concerns of crude supplies increased yesterday after Venezuela decided to cut off sales of crude to Exxon Mobil Corp., while the American company won a court order to freeze $12 billion in the South American nation's assets.

Venezuela represented the fourth largest source of oil for U.S. in 2007. However analysts say the move will have a little impact on supplies.

The Middle East could compensate exports to the U.S. An official from the United States told Reuters that major oil producers in the Middle East have assured the U.S. provide additional supplies if Venezuela weakens exports.

Along with Japan, other Asian economic data reported gains today. China's broad measure of money supply, M2, rose 18.9 percent, the People's Bank of China reported on its website. In Australia, the jobless rate dropped to its lowest since 1974. Total employment rose 26,800 in January, the Bureau of Statistics said.