* U.S. jobless claims drop to five-year low
* U.S. gasoline inventories fall unexpectedly -EIA
* Strong economic news from major consumer countries
* Coming up: CFTC positions data 3:30 p.m. EST Friday
By Gabriel Debenedetti
NEW YORK, Jan 24 Oil prices rose in heavy trade
on Thursday, buoyed by strong economic data from China, the
eurozone and the United States, with U.S. crude prices getting
an extra boost from expectations that the vital Seaway pipeline
could resume full capacity operation within a week.
Enterprise Products Partners, the operator of the
Seaway pipeline, said on Thursday it had no timeline for
restoring full flows. The company said throughput was reduced
because of high inventories in Jones Creek, Texas, resulting
from factors outside its control at nearby refineries and
Trading sources said they believed the pipeline, which
connects the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery point for the U.S. oil
futures contract to the Gulf Coast refining center, would be
back up and running within a week.
U.S. crude oil prices plunged on Wednesday with news of the
restricted flow, on expectations the reduced rates would cause a
build of crude stockpiles at Cushing. Inventories there hit
record levels earlier this month due to rising crude flows from
North Dakota and Canada. Seaway pointed to external factors at
nearby refineries and pipelines as causes for the slowdown.
Brent crude futures for March delivery rose 48 cents
to settle at $113.28 a barrel, having reached a three-month high
of $113.65, but gains were capped by rising global oil supplies.
U.S. crude rose 76 cents to settle at $95.95,
rebounding from a 1.5 percent fall on Wednesday, on rising
deliveries through the Seaway pipeline linking Cushing to the
U.S. Gulf Coast.
As U.S. crude's gains outpaced the rise in Brent, the
international benchmark's premium to U.S. futures narrowed to
$17.33, based on settlements, from $17.57 on Wednesday.
Trading volumes were high, with U.S. crude volumes on the
New York Mercantile Exchange 30 percent over the 30-day moving
average. Brent volumes were 25 percent above that average.
The oil complex was also supported by encouraging purchasing
managers' index data out of China and the eurozone, as well as a
low weekly jobless claims report in the United States and strong
American manufacturing numbers.
"I think the market is readjusting on the crude oil to
yesterday's sell-off, because now, at least based on
conversations around the market, it doesn't look like the Seaway
pipeline will run on the reduced rate for an extended time,"
said Dominick Chirichella, Senior Partner at Energy Management
Institute in New York.
Oil markets have been closely watching economic data from
major consuming nations for signs of an increase in struggling
fuel demand. U.S. jobless claims fell to their lowest level
since January 2008, and manufacturing had its strongest showing
since March 2011.
In addition, gasoline futures found support from Energy
Information Administration data showing gasoline stocks fell
sharply, off 1.74 million barrels for the week to Jan. 18,
despite an expected rise, pushing prices up. U.S. RBOB
gasoline futures rose nearly 1 percent, marking the sixth
straight day of gains, the longest positive stretch since
Crude and distillates inventories rose during week, the EIA