Oil above $108 as US data points to faster growth

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BANGKOK (AP) — Oil sat above $108 a barrel Friday, the highest since March last year, after being boosted by new signs of improvement in the U.S. economy.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was unchanged at $108.04 a barrel at early afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contact rose $1.56 on Thursday.

Oil has jumped more than $11 a barrel in July, and pushed up the price of gasoline along with it. Gasoline futures have gained 13 percent since July 1.

On Thursday U.S. economic news was good on two fronts: The Labor Department reported a drop in claims for unemployment benefits and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region grew in July at the fastest pace in more than two years.

In London, Brent crude rose 6 cents to $108.76 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline added 2.5 cents to $3.07 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 1.6 cents to $3.116 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 1 cent to $3.802 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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