Crude oil prices surged back above $52 per barrel as rising stock markets fueled hopes for improved energy demand. The rally helped oil pare losses from earlier in the week.
Light sweet crude oil for May settlement soared to $52.17 per barrel, up $2.79 for the session.
Markets are closed on Friday for the Good Friday holiday. Oil closed a choppy week up 29 cents and remains up about 17% this year.
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 a figure 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.
On Wednesday, Energy Information Administration data revealed 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.
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