Oil rose above $56 a barrel on Wednesday, after news that private sector job losses slowed in April and government data showing an unexpected drawdown in gasoline stocks last week boosted hopes for a turnaround in the economy.
U.S. light crude for June delivery was up $2.47 at $56.31 a barrel by 12:26 p.m. EDT after reaching a fresh 2009 peak of $56.43 a barrel.
London Brent crude climbed $1.83 to $55.95.
U.S. private sector job losses slowed in April as employers cut 491,000 from the salary rolls versus an expected loss of 650,000, a signal that the economy may be on its way to recovery.
Recent 'light at the end of the tunnel' data in terms of the economic recovery has translated into a modest price recovery in the complex, independent of any fundamental statistics, which are still on the 'dark side', said Jay Levine, a broker at Enerjay, LLC in Portland, Maine.
U.S. gasoline stocks declined unexpectedly last week, falling 200,000 barrels to 212.4 million barrels, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday.
The EIA reported that crude inventories increased 600,000 barrels last week to a fresh 19-year high at 375.3 million barrels, a smaller build than expected.
Today's numbers weren't as bearish as market expectations and since the recent rally is based on the economic picture improving, so too are prices, Levine said.
The market will look to the results of U.S. government bank stress tests for signs of an economic recovery and that would indicate growth in oil demand.
Equity markets fell earlier on reports that Bank of America
Most of the 19 U.S. banks being tested intend to hold news conferences on Friday to explain the results of the government's assessments, with about 10 of the 19 banks seen needing more capital.
Oil has risen from lows around $30 this winter, driven higher by stronger equity markets, but has failed to settle above $55 a barrel so far this year as the market sees oil fundamentals as still weak.
Around 100 million barrels of crude oil and 25 million barrels of products are estimated to be floating at sea on giant tankers as supply outstrips demand.
(Additional reporting by Eileen Moustakis in New York and Christopher Baldwin in London; Editing by Christian Wiessner)