The price of oil came off 3-month lows Thursday as new figures showed the number of U.S. workers seeking unemployment benefits fell.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for November delivery was up 54 cents to $103.20 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 47 cents on Wednesday to finish at $102.66 a barrel, the lowest closing price since July 3.
Oil prices rebounded as fresh data showed that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell 5,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 305,000, the second-lowest level in six years. The U.S. economy, meanwhile, was confirmed to have grown an annualized 2.5 percent in the April-June period.
The data on unemployment and growth contrasted with Wednesday's less encouraging statistics on orders for durable goods — big ticket items expected to last at least three years. Many analysts believe U.S. growth in the current quarter will slow to around 2 percent on the year.
Oil has fallen nearly 7 percent since closing at a two-year high of $110.53 on Sept. 6. Since then, diplomatic efforts have averted a U.S. military strike against Syria, and tense relations between the U.S. and Iran have shown signs of a thaw. As a result, the market has removed the so-called political risk premium from the price of oil. Some analysts put this premium at about $5 to $6 a barrel.
Meanwhile, supply numbers pointed toward a possible slip in demand, as the U.S. Energy Department said crude supplies increased by an unexpected 2.6 million barrels last week. Analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos., had forecast crude stocks to fall by 1.5 million barrels.
Brent crude, the benchmark for international crudes used by many U.S. refineries, rose 77 cents to $109.09 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. In other energy futures trading on Nymex: — Wholesale gasoline rose 0.7 cent to $2.664 per gallon.
— Natural gas fell 1.3 cents to $3.533 per 1,000 cubic feet. — Heating oil rose 2.46 cents to $2.9959 per gallon.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.