U.S. crude gained for a fifth straight session on Thursday as positive U.S. economic data hinted at a resurgence of demand for oil in the world's largest consumer.
Traders said gains were limited by concern over whether the positive U.S. data would prompt the Federal Reserve to start curbing its monthly bond-buying program, which could reduce support for riskier assets such as commodities.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 298,000, declining for a third straight week.
U.S. crude settled up 18 cents at $97.38 a barrel, after rising more than a dollar on Wednesday and more than 5 percent over the past four sessions, putting the U.S. benchmark on course for its biggest weekly gain since July. Brent crude for January delivery extended early losses, falling by about $1 to under $111 a barrel.
U.S crude's gains came as Brent's premium over U.S. crude widened from below $9 to over $19. That spread has unwound over the past week, as U.S. crude, or West Texas Intermediate (WTI) has consistently outperformed Brent, knocking over $5 off the spread and bringing it to a session low of $12.97 per barrel on Thursday.
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