NEW YORK — Oil followed a familiar pattern Thursday, moving higher despite some less-than-stellar economic reports.
Benchmark oil for June delivery rose 86 cents to close at $95.16per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after falling as low as $93.23. Trading Wednesday was similar, when oil finished with a gain of 9 cents.
Applications for U.S. unemployment aid rose last week by 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, the highest in 6 weeks, the Labor Department said. A report on housing was neutral, with housing starts dropping, but permits rising.
Both oil and stock traders have lately shrugged off signs of sluggish economic growth, because the data suggest that the Federal Reserve will keep pumping money into financial markets.
"Much of the institutional oil trading community continues to associate strong equities with continued loose monetary policies that should, in turn, be supporting asset classes such as oil," said Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates, in a note to clients.
At the pump, the average price for a gallon of gasoline reached $3.60 for the first time in more than a month. Gas has risen 9 cents so far in May as Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer driving season, approaches.
Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, rose 28 cents to finish at $103.78 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
_ Wholesale gasoline gained 2 cents to end at $2.88 a gallon.
_ Heating oil added 3 cents to finish at $2.91 a gallon.
_ Natural gas lost 14 cents to end at $3.93 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Pablo Gorondi in Budapest and Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.