US crude settles up $1.57, or 3.1%, at $52.78 a barrel

Oil going through 'messy' bottoming: Pro

Oil hit its highest level for the year on Friday with Brent crude rising above $60 a barrel, as eurozone economic growth exceeded expectations and data showed another drop in the U.S. oil rig count.

The number of rigs drilling for oil in the United States fell by 84 this week to 1,056—the lowest since August 201—a Baker Hughes survey showed on Friday, a clear sign of the pressure that tumbling crude prices have put on oil producers.

Many analysts and traders believe there is a global oversupply of nearly two million barrels per day in crude oil. They say little has changed fundamentally to explain the rally of the past two weeks.

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Even so, oil prices have marched higher. Brent rose over 3 percent in Friday's session, about 6 percent on the week and nearly 16 percent on the month. Gains heightened after its front-month contract switched on Thursday at a premium.

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Brent had collapsed from a high above $115 a barrel in June to a near six-year low under $46 in late January, as fears of a global oil glut rattled the market.

"Naturally, when prices fall that much within that short a time, you're likely to have a severe rebound as well, though speculators are possibly adding more fuel on the way up now," said Phil Flynn, analyst at the Price Futures Group in Chicago.

U.S. crude closed up $1.57, or 3.1 percent, at $52.78 a barrel, after hitting a session high of $53.32 earlier.

Brent was last up about $2 at about $61 a barrel, having reached $61.77 earlier.

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Some traders attributed Friday's strength in oil to the unexpected acceleration in euro zone economic growth in the final quarter of 2014. The bloc's largest member, Germany, particularly grew at more than twice the expected rate.

Others said the market was possibly pricing in another weekly drop in the U.S. oil rig count, ahead of industry data due later in the day. The rig count fell last week to a three-year low.

Still, the rally in oil has come amid record-high U.S. crude inventories.

Walter Zimmerman, chief technical analyst at United-ICAP in Jersey City, New Jersey, said unless U.S. crude rose above $58.72, its rebound from the January low of $43.58 "is doomed to be a minor bear market correction in a continuing long term down trend."