SINGAPORE – Oil prices rose slightly above $104 a barrel Thursday in Asia after the U.S. central bank boosted its outlook for economic growth and employment this year.
Benchmark oil for June delivery was up 23 cents to $104.35 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 57 cents to settle at $104.12 in New York on Wednesday.
Brent crude for June delivery was up 19 cents at $119.31 per barrel in London.
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday after a two-day policy meeting that it expects the U.S. economy to grow between 2.4 percent and 2.9 percent in 2012. That's up from a January forecast of 2.2 percent to 2.7 percent growth.
The Fed also expects the unemployment rate to drop to between 7.8 percent and 8 percent by the end of the year. The rate is currently 8.2 percent.
Oil prices have hovered between $102 and $104 in low trading volume most of this month as traders wait for more clarity on Europe's debt crisis and the conflict over Iran's nuclear program.
"The oil market continues to be very quiet," Barclays Capital said in a report. "Most market participants are on hold, looking for some trigger."
Higher crude production in recent months by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has weighed on prices. Crude inventories in the U.S. have also risen more than analysts expected for the last five weeks.
In other energy trading, heating oil was up 0.2 cents at $3.17 per gallon and gasoline futures were steady at $3.12 per gallon. Natural gas rose 0.2 cents at $2.07 per 1,000 cubic feet.
(This version CORRECTS Corrects misspelling in headlines)