Crude oil prices surged above $52 per barrel on Thursday morning on improved prospects for demand.

Light sweet crude for May delivery jumped to $52.01 per barrel, up $2.63 for the session. Prices touched as high as $52.35 in the early going.

Oil finished a volatile session up 25 cents on Wednesday as Energy Information Administration data revealed a weekly inventory build was less than the expectations of analysts.

U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased 1.7 million barrels from the previous week. Economists were looking for a build in inventories of about 2.3 million barrels in the week ended April 3.

Total motor gasoline inventories increased 600,000 barrels last week. Distillate fuel inventories decreased by 3.4 million barrels and propane/propylene inventories increased last week by 1.3 million barrels.

On Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute's crude oil inventory report revealed a build of 6.9 million barrels to 364.7 million in the recent week. Participation in the survey is voluntary, while refineries are required to report for the EIA data.

On the economic front, the U.S. Labor Department announced initial jobless claims fell to 654,000 for the week ended April 4, compared to the previous week's revised level of 674,000. Analysts had expected the figure to come in at a level of 664,000.

Continuing claims rose by 95,000, bringing the total number to another record high of 5.84 million.

The U.S. Commerce Department reported that the trade gap came in at a deficit of $25.97 billion for February. This compared to a revised level of $36.2 billion in the previous month.

Economists had been looking for a deficit around $36 billion.

A separate Labor Department report showed that import prices rose 0.5 percent in March following a revised 0.1 percent decrease in February. The increase in import prices marks the first price growth in eight months.

At the same time, the Labor Department said that export prices fell 0.6 percent in March after edging down 0.3 percent in the previous month. With the decrease, export prices fell for the seventh time in the past eight months.

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