Crude-oil futures eked out the slimmest of gains in quiet trading Thursday, edging higher alongside equities after weekly jobless claims unexpectedly dropped.
Light, sweet crude for September delivery rose one cent, or 0.01%, to settle at $93.36 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on ICE Futures Europe rose $1.08, or 1%, to settle at $113.22 a barrel.
The number of U.S. workers filing for jobless benefits fell by 6,000 to 361,000 in the week ended Aug. 4, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected the number to increase by 3,000.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was recently up 0.1% at 1403.83. "Crude and the S&P have moved very much in lock step" in recent months, said Kyle Cooper, managing partner at IAF Advisors in Houston. "Equities are up a little bit, crude's up a little bit."
"Markets are just kind of sitting on their hands here," said Carl Larry, analyst for Oil Outlooks & Opinions.
West Texas Intermediate crude, the U.S. benchmark traded on Nymex, reached its biggest discount to European benchmark Brent in four months, with Brent recently $19.79 a barrel more expensive.
Brent prices have climbed on supply concerns. The loadings of four major crude-oil grades out of the North Sea, including Brent, will fall 4.6% in September compared to a month before, according to Dow Jones Newswires' data based on a review of shipping schedules.
Heating oil was the best-performing of oil-based products--its September contract settled up 2.91 cents, or 1%, at $3.0450. The profit for refining a barrel of crude oil into heating oil--known as the heating oil crack spread--is at its highest level since Feb. 13.
Stockpiles of heating oil and diesel fuel declined 700,000 barrels last week, according to the EIA, a significant drop from the expected 500,000-barrel increase. Because heating-oil demand will continue to rise as temperatures drop, "the heating oil market continues to look like the strongest segment of the petroleum complex," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures Perspective in a note to clients.
Front-month September reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, rose 2.04 cents, or 0.7%, to $3.0008 a gallon.