Crude oil prices rose slightly on Wednesday after a government report showed an increase in U.S. retail sales, relieving fears of an economic recession and lower demand.
Retail sales climbed 0.3 percent in January the U.S. Commerce Department in Washington said today. The unexpected gains were led by spending on autos, clothes and gasoline, according to the report.
Crude oil rose 0.44 cents or 0.47 percent to $93.22 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange at 4:07 p.m. Brent crude rose 0.14 cents or 0.15 percent to $93.30 a barrel on London's ICE Futures Exchange.
Also on Wednesday, the Energy Department released its weekly data report showing gasoline demand increased 1.2 percent or 104,000 barrels to an average of 9.02 million barrels a day on the week ended February 8.
The report stated crude oil supplies rose 1.1 million barrels last week, less than the average of 2.38 to 2.7 million barrels expected. Some analysts commented that supplies rose due to a slowdown in imports and a growth in demand from refiners.
The report said last week's imports fell 7.4 percent to 9.74 million barrels a day, the lowest since December. Experts said the reason of this drop was a problem at the Houston Ship Channel which closed to traffic due to dense fog. The channel serves the largest U.S. petroleum port.
In the same report, gasoline inventories climbed 1.7 million barrels, lightly below forecasts. Inventories of distillates which include heating oil dropped 100,000 barrels last week, reported the Energy Department.
Supporting oil prices, demand may increase as Venezuela's government will stop sales of crude, gasoline and diesel to Exxon Mobil Corp. Late Tuesday the government announced its resolution towards the American company in response to an international legal order to freeze $12 billion of Venezuela's oil company assets.
According to the Energy Department, Venezuela was the fourth biggest provider of U.S. crude imports in 2007.