Oil pushes toward $106 as US growth improves

BANGKOK (AP) — Faster economic growth in the U.S. and tightening crude supplies helped push up oil prices Thursday.

Benchmark oil for September delivery was up 54 cents to $105.58 a barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $1.95, or 1.9 percent, to close at $105.03 on Wednesday.

Oil stockpiles in the U.S. fell by 740,000 barrels to 369.9 million barrels for the week ending July 26, according to the American Petroleum Institute. The U.S. Energy Department reported that supplies rose by 400,000 barrels last week, although supplies at the crucial Cushing, Oklahoma, hub for benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude declined by 1.9 million barrels.

The oil price was also boosted by better-than-expected U.S. economic growth for the second quarter of 2013. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the economy grew at a 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, better than a revised 1.1 percent rate for the first quarter.

On Friday, attention will be focused on the release of hiring figures for July, which will be examined for hints about future energy demand in the world’s No. 1 economy.

Brent crude, traded on the ICE Futures exchange in London, rose 45 cents to $108.13 per barrel.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Heating oil was up 1.5 cents to $3.07 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 0.3 cents to $3.443 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Wholesale gasoline was little changed at $2.997 a gallon.

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