Oil headed for its first weekly gain in three, trading near a one-week high in New York amid signs of econ-omic recovery in the US, the world's biggest crude consumer.
Futures gained as much as 0.8 per cent, advancing for a third day. The US Commerce Department is expected to report that economic growth accelerated in the fourth quarter. Durable goods orders rose more than forecast in Dec-ember, according to data published on Thursday, and a report last week showed gasoline demand grew the most in more than two months. Total SA Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie said it would take a "real recession" to send Brent crude below $100 a barrel.
"To see a lower price of oil, below $100, you really would need to have a real recession, and I don't think we will get a real recession," de Margerie said in Davos.
Crude for March delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange (Nymex) rose as much as 80 cents to $100.50 a barrel and was at $100.30 a barrel at 11:05am London time. Thursday, the contract gained 30 cents to $99.70, the highest settlement since January 19. Prices climbed 1.9 per cent last week and 17 per cent in the past year.
Brent oil for March settlement on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange was at $111.42 a barrel, up 63 cents. The European benchmark contract was at a premium of $11.12 to West Texas futures. The spread shrank to $9.90 on January 18 and reached a record $27.88 on October 14.
The Commerce Department may say that US gross domestic product grew at a 3 per cent annual pace in the fourth quarter, after advancing 1.8 per cent in the previous three months, according to the median forecast of 79 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
"The data we've seen out of the US over the last few months is indicating a recovery in the economy," Michael McCarthy, a chief market strategist at CMC Markets Asia Pacific Pty in Sydney, said by telephone yesterday. "The spread between Brent and West Texas has blown out again. That suggests the potential for some supply disruption is in the back of traders' minds."
Low Fed interest rate could boost prices
Crude may rise this week on the EU embargo plan and after the Federal Reserve committed to keep interest rates near a record low through 2014, according to a Bloomberg News survey. Fifteen of 32 analysts and traders, or 47 per cent, forecast oil will advance through February 3. Ten respondents, or 31 per cent, predicted prices will drop and seven predict little change.