Oil prices rebounded Thursday as traders feared being caught short ahead of a long holiday weekend amid tightening sanctions on Iran.
The market fretted about Friday's keenly awaited official numbers on US jobs and unemployment for March, but took courage from an upbeat report Thursday on weekly initial unemployment claims, a sign of slowing layoffs.
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for May, jumped $US1.84 from Wednesday's closing level to finish at $US103.31 a barrel.
In London, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in May settled at $US123.43 a barrel, adding $US1.09.
The New York oil market will be closed Good Friday, and its London counterpart will be closed on Friday and Monday due to a bank holiday. However, electronic trading will continue in New York.
The market fell sharply on Wednesday after the US government reported a big jump in the nation's crude stockpiles, adding to concerns about growth in the world's biggest oil-consuming nation.
The New York futures contract, which started the Thursday session slightly higher, leaped on news that US jobless claims fell to a four-year low last week.
"The employment figures gave us a boost -- it shows that the job market is getting better," said Phil Flynn at PFG Best.
VTB Capital commodities analyst Andrey Kryuchenkov said the oil market would give its full verdict next week on the US jobs data.
"Much will depend on how the market opens next week with a delayed reaction to the US March nonfarm payrolls report this coming Friday," Kryuchenkov said.
Matt Smith at Summit Energy pointed to tensions over Iran keeping worries about tight supply on the boil.
"News of Chinese insurers refusing to insure Iranian oil shipments has geopolitical tension coming back to the fore," Smith said.
PFG Best's Flynn said the deepening sanctions on Iran by the United States and its allies is stirring worries that "very high quality crude is going to be in tighter supply."
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