The poor jobless data was compounded by weak U.S. retail sales data
suggesting that consumers used their money toward heating fuel this
year amid a record cold winter. The data pressured the U.S. stock
market and weighed on oil prices.
"Any negative information coming out of the U.S. will send a demand
destruction signal to the market which will cause prices to pull
back temporarily," said Michael Weis, commodity analyst with energy
consultancy Schneider Electric in Louisville, Kentucky.
Brent's losses were limited by a report from the International
Energy Agency (IEA), which said inventories in the developed world
fell 1.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in the last three months of
2013 in the steepest quarterly decline since 1999.
Both contracts slightly pared losses after a report that BP declared
force majeure on Angolan Plutonio crude exports after damage to a
hose, and production has been cut back. The Plutonio stream is
scheduled to export 179,000 bpd in February, according to loading
programs provided by trading sources.
U.S. crude edged slightly higher towards the close of the session on
the back of rising heating oil prices, analysts said, before turning
negative just ahead of the session's close.
Heating oil futures rose 1.8 cents, or 0.6 percent, by 2:37 p.m. EDT
"The weather is having a push-pull effect, with heating oil up and
crude a little soft," said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital,
LLC in New York.
Brent crude oil futures for March delivery, which expire on
Thursday, fell by 6 cents to settle at $108.73 a barrel, after
closing up 11 cents in the previous session. The April contract rose
13 cents to $108.48.
U.S. crude, also known as West Texas Intermediate (WTI), lost 2
cents to close at $100.35 barrel, having dipped as low as $99.40 a
barrel earlier in the session, below the 200-day moving average of
[to top of second column]
U.S. crude oil had traded as high as $101.38 on Wednesday, its
strongest since Oct. 18, after data showed TransCanada Corp's Gulf
Coast pipeline has begun to drain oil in earnest from the benchmark
delivery point in Cushing, Oklahoma.
U.S. crude narrowed its gap with Brent to less than $8 on Wednesday,
the smallest since early October. The spread <CL-LCO1=R> widened on
Thursday to settle at $8.38 per barrel.
Oil prices may find some support from the potential for further
supply interruptions from Libya, where protesters have shut gas and
oil pipelines from the Wafa oilfield and blocked another line from
the larger El Sharara field.
A spokesman for Libya's National Oil Corporation said production had
fallen to 460,000 bpd.
Low prices also reflected traders expectations of declining crude
demand. Crude oil demand traditionally dips in the second quarter of
the year as large northern hemisphere refineries reduce capacity for
The market also concerned itself with reports that a train carrying
crude oil crashed in Pennsylvania, adding to a string of recent
(Additional reporting by Jeanine
Prezioso in New York, Christopher Johnson and David Sheppard in
London and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Singapore; editing by Jason
Neely, Keiron Henderson, Marguerita Choy and Meredith Mazzilli)
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