Oil little changed as gasoline rally curbed by jobless claims

Oil was little changed as gasoline and heating oil futures climbed while more Americans than forecast applied for unemployment benefits.

Crude fell 11 cents, extending the weekly loss to 7.2 percent. Gasoline rose on falling East Coast supplies. The Labor Department said jobless claims reached 382,000 last week, more than the 375,000 forecast by economists polled by Bloomberg. Oil slumped yesterday after the Energy Department reported crude stockpiles surged 8.53 million barrels.

“The strong gasoline price is a little supportive, ” said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at the Price Futures Group in Chicago. “The claims number was pretty disappointing. We’ve come down a lot in the past few days and the market is due for a rebound.”

Oil for October delivery settled at $91.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the fourth consecutive decline. The contract expired today. The more-active November futures rose 12 cents to $92.42.

Brent oil for November settlement rose $1.74, or 1.6 percent, to $109.93 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The front-month European benchmark grade’s premium to the corresponding West Texas Intermediate contract widened for the first time in six days.

Gasoline jumped 2.7 percent after the Energy Department said yesterday East Coast stockpiles of the fuel dropped 4.6 percent last week to 47.8 million barrels, the lowest level since October 2008. Gasoline for October delivery increased 7.54 cents to end the session at $2.904 a gallon.

Gasoline Supply

Total inventories fell 1.41 million barrels to 196.3 million, the eighth consecutive decline and also the lowest level since October 2008.

“Gasoline is very strong as we still have issues about very low supplies in the Northeast, and that’s pulling oil up along with it,” said Stephen Schork, president of the Schork Group Inc. in Villanova, Pennsylvania.

Gasoline also rose as Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state oil company, worked to extinguish a naphtha tank fire at its El Palito refinery. The fires were triggered by lightning that struck a seal on the tanks at 7:30 p.m. yesterday, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said in a telephone call broadcast on state television.

Oil fell earlier as the Labor Department revised the previous week’s jobless claims up to 385,000 from an initially reported 382,000 and as the euro weakened against the dollar.

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