BANGKOK – Oil remained above $94 a barrel Thursday in Asia after an unanticipated drop in U.S. crude inventories and stronger retail sales helped push prices to a three-month high.
Benchmark oil for September delivery was up 7 cents to $94.40 a barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, its highest level since mid-May. The contract rose 90 cents to finish at $94.33 per barrel Wednesday in New York.
On the ICE Futures exchange in London, Brent crude was up 2 cents at $114.33.
The Energy Department said Wednesday that stockpiles fell 3.7 million barrels last week to 366.2 million barrels, suggesting stronger demand. Analysts had predicted a decline of 1.5 million barrels, according to Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill. It marked the third consecutive large weekly decrease in oil supplies. Decreases tend to cause a rise in oil prices.
Meanwhile, better-than-expected U.S. retail sales for July also helped support crude prices, according to energy analyst Stephen Schork. Signs that Americans are spending money again added to expectations that oil demand would increase. Government data on Wednesday showed Americans increased their retail spending in July by the most in five months, a sign that "shows an economy in recovery mode," Schork said in a report.
In other futures trading on NYMEX, heating oil rose marginally to $3.086 per gallon. Gasoline fell less than 1 cent to $3.076 per gallon. Natural gas rose 2.1 cents to $2.769 per 1,000 cubic feet.