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Crude oil inches past US$102 on strong U.S. housing data, Ukraine tensions

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The price of oil rose past US$102 a barrel Friday on strong U.S. construction activity and increased tensions in Ukraine.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for June delivery rose 52 cents to close at US$102.02 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, for an overal gain of two per cent for the week.

Brent crude for July delivery, a benchmark for international oil used by many U.S. refineries, rose 60 cents to US$109.75 in London. The Brent crude June contract expired Thursday.

The U.S. Commerce Department said Friday that U.S. housing construction surged to its highest pace in six months, which could signal higher demand for gasoline, diesel and the crude oil needed to make those fuels.

U.S. economic data this week was mixed, however. The Federal Reserve said Thursday that industrial activity slowed in April and the Commerce Department said Tuesday that retail sales were weak in April.

Crude prices were pushed higher, though, by signs of increased demand in the U.S. and around the world. The Energy Department reported surprisingly high demand for gasoline this week, and the Paris-based International Energy Agency increased its prediction for global crude demand.

Tensions in Ukraine continue to hang over the oil market. Traders worry that the conflict could bring new sanctions by the West that could keep Russian oil and gas from world markets.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex, wholesale gasoline rose one cent to close at US$2.974 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil rose 0.3 of a cent to close at US$2.954 a gallon and natural gas fell 5.6 cents to close at US$4.413 per 1,000 cubic feet.

(TSX:ECA), (TSX:IMO), (TSX:SU), (TSX:HSE), (NYSE:BP), (NYSE:COP), (NYSE:XOM), (NYSE:CVX), (TSX:CNQ), (TSX:TLM), (TSX:COS), (TSX:CVE)

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