WASHINGTON (DTN) -- Oil futures nearest delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange and Brent crude traded on the Intercontinental Exchange settled the Friday session with modest losses. However, all contracts advanced more than 6% this week as improved macroeconomic data in the United States and stronger refinery run rates painted a brighter outlook for transportation fuel demand in the world's largest oil consumer.
The oil complex came under mild selling pressure Friday after Baker Hughes data reported the number of active oil rigs in the U.S. increased for the fourth time in five weeks, rising Friday to the highest in nearly a year at 344. The rig count has been in uptrend since late August along with rising oil prices, underscoring partial recovery in domestic oil production. The most recent data available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show crude output rose by 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 11 million bpd.
This week, oil traders remained laser-focused on improving macroeconomic data in the U.S., with weekly unemployment claims falling to the lowest level since March 2020. Also, U.S. retail sales spiked 9.8% in March, a sign that Americans are willing to spend more after they received $1,400 stimulus checks. Last month's spike in retail sales prompted chatter over a consumer-led boom in the world's largest economy.
American households are estimated to have saved more than $3 trillion in past 12 months, according to World Bank and Organization of the Economic Cooperation and Development, in part thanks to President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus plan and reduced opportunities to spend.
In another sign of improved macrotrends, U.S. consumer sentiment index for April, released Friday morning by the University of Michigan, increased 1.9 points to the highest reading in over a year at 86.5.
"The strength in current economic conditions reflects much larger than usual stimulus payments during the past year, and much larger than usual economic gains due to comparisons with last year's shutdowns." said Surveys of Consumers Chief Economist Richard Curtin.
Stellar jobless claims combined with off-the-charts retail sales send a strong signal that the economy is in full steam toward recovery, boosting equities to fresh record highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 116 points, or 0.34% on Friday to 34,152, and the S&P 500 gained 0.24%. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury edged higher Friday to 1.576%. The 10-year Treasury note sank Thursday to 1.531%, the lowest in four weeks.
Despite upbeat data, the U.S. dollar index struggled to regain buying interest to finish this week near a four-week low 91.544, lending additional support to the oil complex.
On the session, NYMEX West Texas Intermediate for May delivery slipped 33 cents to settle at $63.13 per barrel, and the June Brent contract on ICE traded little to soften to $66.77 per barrel.
NYMEX May ULSD futures dipped 0.32 cent to $1.8957 per gallon, and May RBOB futures declined 1.19 cents to $2.0399 per gallon.
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