Oil closes above $100 on upbeat economic outlook

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Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2013 12:00 am

Oil prices closed above $100 a barrel Friday, the first time it crossed that threshold since October.

Benchmark U.S. oil for February delivery rose 77 cents to close at $100.32 in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The price of oil got a boost from a drop in applications for unemployment benefits, the latest sign of recovery in the U.S. job market, and expectations of a decline in U.S. crude stockpiles. Optimism about the U.S. economic recovery lifted expectations for the country's energy demand.

The last time oil traded above $100 a barrel was Oct. 21. The last day it closed above $100 a barrel was Oct. 18. During the abridged holiday trading week, oil gained $1.

A report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration released Friday showed that U.S. crude stockpiles fell 4.7 million barrels last week to 367.6 million barrels. The supply fell in the last week from 23.4 days' worth of oil to 22.8 days.

Meanwhile, violence in South Sudan has stoked concerns about the African nation's oil production.

"Violence flaring in South Sudan threatens to disrupt crude output in the region and with ongoing outages in Libya, Brent prices may gain further support from a tightening fundamental outlook," said analysts in a note from Sucden Financial Research.

At the gas pump, the average price of a gallon of gasoline is $3.28. That's up 6 cents from a week ago, and up 2 cents from this time last year.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, rose 20 cents to $112.18 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

- Wholesale gasoline was down 0.4 cents to $2.82 a gallon.

- Heating oil was rose 3 cents to $3.12 per gallon.

- Natural gas lost 3 cents to $4.41 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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