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Crude Oil Ends Lower On Soft Economic Data

U.S. crude oil futures settled lower Thursday, after some soft economic data from the U.S. once again set off worries about the economy and as well on speculations that France may be downgraded. Oil prices continued to fluctuate between small gains and losses throughout the day, before settling lower.

Light Sweet Crude Oil futures for May delivery, dropped $0.40 or 0.4 percent to close at $102.27 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange Thursday.

Crude prices traded in a narrow band, with a high of $103.66 a barrel intraday and a low of $102.17.

Yesterday, an EIA report revealed that US crude oil inventories jumped 3.90 million barrels, while gasoline stocks shed 3.70 million barrels in the week ended April 13. Analysts expected crude oil inventories to add 400,000 barrels and gasoline stocks to move up by 140,000 barrels last week.

The dollar index, which tracks the U.S. unit against six major currencies, traded at 79.610 on Thursday, slightly up from 79.590 in North American trade late Wednesday. The dollar scaled a high of 79.83 intraday, with a low of 79.39.

The euro was trading slightly higher against the dollar at $1.3124 on Thursday, as compared to $1.3124 late Wednesday. The euro scaled a high of $1.3165 intraday with a low of $1.3070.

In Europe, a bond auction in Spain showed strong demand, although yields continued to ride high. The Treasury sold 2.54 billion euros of 2- and 10-year bonds, which is slightly in excess of 2.50 billion euros target for the sale. The yield on the 10-year benchmark bond rose to 5.743 percent from 5.403 percent in the previous auction in January.

In economic news from the U.S., the Labor Department's new unemployment claims for the week ended April 14, came in at a seasonally adjusted level of 386,000, a decline from the previous week's revised level of 388,000 claims. The revised figures were up from initial estimates that put the level of new claims for the week ending April 7 at 380,000. Most economists expected the level of new claims to drop to a level of 365,000 for the week ended April 14.

Separately, the National Association of Realtors said existing home sales fell 2.6 percent to an annual rate of 4.48 million in March from an upwardly revised 4.60 million in February. The drop surprised economists, who had expected existing home sales to edge up to 4.62 million from the 4.59 million originally reported for the previous month.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia report Thursday showed the diffusion index of current activity dropped to 8.5 in April from 12.5 in March, although a positive reading still indicates an increase in manufacturing activity. Economists expected the index to edge down to a reading of 12.0.

Indicating a positive outlook, the Conference Board's leading economic index for the U.S. increased for the sixth consecutive month in March, a report on Thursday showed. The leading economic index rose by 0.3 percent in March following a 0.7 percent increase in February and a 0.2 percent increase in January. Economists expected the index to increase by 0.2 percent.

by RTT Staff Writer

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