Oil Ends Pre-Holiday Session Higher

Washington, D.C. (DTN) -- Oil futures nearest delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Intercontinental Exchange Brent crude settled higher in back-and-forth trade ahead of the long Easter holiday weekend.

Oil futures were boosted Thursday afternoon by the drop in the number of active oil rigs in the United States, which follows two weeks of consecutive increases. Baker Hughes reported U.S. active oil rigs declined by eight this week, bringing the total number down to 825. The number of operating U.S. gas and oil rigs declined 10 from last week to 1,012, which is down one from last year's count of 1,013. Rig data was released a day earlier than usual because the markets are closed on Good Friday.

The lower rig count comes after government data showed on Wednesday crude oil production in the U.S. declined 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the week ended April 12 to 12.1 million bpd. The Energy Information Administration also reported U.S. crude stockpiled posted the first drawdown in four weeks, down 1.4 million barrels (bbl) last week to a 455.2 million bbl, nearly 2% below the five-year average.

U.S. equities markets edged up Thursday, after bouncing between positive and negative territory, as investors absorbed a slew of economic data released this week. China reported on Tuesday its GDP grew at 6.4% in the first quarter, supported by better-than-expected industrial output and retail sales last month. However, strong growth in the world's second largest economy was quickly offset by another slump in the Eurozone manufacturing sector reported Thursday morning. IHS Markit Purchasing Managers Index for Europe slid to 51.6 in April, pointing to the slowest expansion in nearly six years. Germany's manufacturing index came at 44.5 in April, while annual forecast growth for European power house was cut to 0.5% versus 2.1% a year ago.

In the U.S., federal data released Monday showed manufacturing production fell 1.1% in the first quarter, while U.S. economic output slowed to a 2.2% in the last three months of 2018 from 3.4% in the third quarter.

Nymex May WTI futures settled $0.24 higher at $64.00 bbl while ICE June Brent crude settled up 35cts at $71.97 bbl. Nymex May RBOB futures surged 3.04 cents to settle at $2.0722 gallon, as Nymex May ULSD futures finished the session up 0.17 cents at $2.0709 gallon.

Liubov Georges can be reached at liubov.georges@dtn.com