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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.

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

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.

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.

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