Business

Brighter outlook lifts oil above $96

NEW YORK — The price of oil climbed above $96 a barrel after fresh US economic data suggested the world’s largest economy keeps recovering. Benchmark crude for May delivery rose $1.53 to a five-week high of $96.34 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Commerce Department said orders for factory-produced durable goods (expected to last at least three years) rose 5.7 percent in February, beating consensus forecasts for a 3.7 percent gain after January’s 4.9 percent fall.

Home prices rose 8.1 percent in January, the fastest annualized rate since the peak of the housing boom in 2006.

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Jim Ritterbusch, president of the consultancy Ritterbusch and Associates, expects to see more positive data. That should boost stocks, which in turn could support oil.

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The picture at the gas pump looks better, too. The average US price for a gallon fell a penny to $3.66. That’s 12 cents cheaper than a month ago and 24 cents less than a year ago.

Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by US refineries, rose $1.19 to end at $109.36 a barrel in London.