US oil prices close above $100 a barrel on strong data
New York: US oil prices closed above USD 100 a barrel for the first time since October on Friday after a weekly US oil inventory report showed strong demand for crude and petroleum products.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for February delivery rose 77 cents to USD 100.32 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
European benchmark Brent oil for February delivery increased 20 cents to USD 112.18 a barrel.
US crude inventories fell by 4.7 million barrels, more than the 2.2 million expected by analysts in a Wall Street Journal survey.
Gasoline stockpiles fell by 600,000, while analysts had projected a build of 1 million barrels.
"The demand still came in," said Stephen Schork of consultancy the Schork Group. The data constituted a "supportive report," he added.
Schork said he was especially impressed by a 1.8 percent increase in gasoline demand from the prior week, despite poor weather that would have impeded driving in some part of the country.
The report comes amid other signs the US economy is picking up. Reports earlier this week on new home sales, durable goods orders and jobless claims have also bested expectations.
Schork said the decline in crude inventories was not as important because refiners typically reduce inventories before the end of the year for tax purposes.
Oil traders have also been watching developments in South Sudan in recent days, where violence in a key oil-producing region has dented crude output and led to numerous oilfield staff evacuations.
East African leaders in Nairobi on Friday announced that South Sudan`s government has agreed to an immediate ceasefire after nearly two weeks of heavy fighting with rebels.
The statement appeared to provide the first glimmer of hope for a ceasefire since the fighting began, but after fighting in several strategic oil-producing areas in the north of the country.