Oil gains on strong US jobs data

Oil prices gained Thursday after strong US employment figures offset concerns about lofty petroleum supplies.

A barrel of West Texas Intermediate settled at $93.03 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up 51 cents.

European benchmark Brent oil increased 90 cents to close at $109.42 on the Intercontinental Exchange in London.

The price gains followed a report that new US claims for unemployment benefits came in at 332,000 in the week ending March 9, a drop of 10,000 compared with the prior week, according to the Department of Labor.

It was the third week in a row to see a decline in jobless claims, an indicator of the pace of layoffs.

"When we see signs that the economy is getting better, it can offset some of the bearish fundamentals," said Gene McGillian, a broker and analyst at Tradition Energy.

But Carl Larry, a broker at Atlas Commodities LLC, said the comparatively modest price rise suggested the market remained cautious on the state of the economy.

"We're waiting for more signs of economic improvement that carry over onto the oil demand side," Larry said.

The data came a day after the Department of Energy reported US crude stockpiles rose 2.6 million barrels in the week ended March 8, indicating weaker demand for oil in the world's biggest economy.

The US data also pointed toward higher domestic oil production, now placed at 7.2 million barrels a day, or nearly 23 percent above the year-ago level.

Also Wednesday, the International Energy Agency, which advises wealthy countries on energy policy, cut its global forecast for growth in world oil demand for the second straight month, citing uncertainty from the US budget talks, sluggish Chinese business activity and unemployment in Europe.