The Labor Department said first-time unemployment benefit claims dropped by 6,000 in the week ending Saturday. Earlier in the week, Automatic Data Processing Inc. said 209,000 private sector jobs were added to the economy in March.
Pressure came from uneven government bond auctions in Spain and France, which undermined investor confidence. In Washington, the Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that U.S. stockpiles of crude oil rose by 9 million barrels in the week to 362.4 million barrels, a larger upturn than expected.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, May delivery crude oil rose to $103.11 from a morning settlement of $101.94 per barrel. Home heating oil added 0.38 cents to $3.173 per gallon. Reformulated blendstock gasoline shed 0.4 cents to $3.3365 per gallon.
Natural gas prices added 0.7 cents to $2.096 per million British thermal units.
At the pump, the national average price of unleaded gasoline rose to $3.936 per gallon, up from Wednesday's $3.928, AAA said.
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