New York - Oil prices edged higher on Thursday as a solid employment report from the United States offset weak economic data from Europe.
A barrel of West Texas Intermediate for delivery in March finished the day 30 cents higher at $97.31 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In London, a barrel of European benchmark Brent oil closed the day at $118.00, 12 cents higher than Wednesday's level.
US oil futures began the morning in negative territory, but moved higher after a weekly report of new US claims for unemployment insurance fell last week to well below the trend line.
Jobless claims, a sign of the pace of layoffs, fell to 341 000 in the week to February 9, compared with 368 000 the previous week.
The rise in oil price is “directly attributable to the improving employment sector”, said John Kilduff, analyst at Again Capital.
The solid jobs figures in the US helped to counteract the latest batch of weak economic data from Europe.
Eurozone growth fell 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to Eurostat. Analysts had projected a decline of 0.4 percent.
The European Central Bank also slashed their eurozone growth forecasts for 2013 and 2014.
Gene McGillian, a broker and analyst Tradition Energy, said the weak European numbers weighed on oil prices and kept the commodity from rallying higher still.
“We keep looking for a catalyst to rally. But we're still getting conflicting signals from the economy and that's preventing the market from rallying higher,” McGillian said. - Sapa-AFP