Oil rises above US$104 as US boosts outlook


SINGAPORE–Oil prices rose slightly above US$104 a barrel Thursday in Asia after the U.S. central bank boosted its outlook for economic growth and employment this year.

Benchmark oil for June delivery was up 23 cents to US$104.35 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 57 cents to settle at US$104.12 in New York on Wednesday. Brent crude for June delivery was up 19 cents at US$119.31 per barrel in London. In other energy trading, heating oil was up 0.2 cents at US$3.17 per gallon and gasoline futures were steady at US$3.12 per gallon. Natural gas rose 0.2 cents at US$2.07 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday after a two-day policy meeting that it expects the U.S. economy to grow between 2.4 percent and 2.9 percent in 2012. That’s up from a January forecast of 2.2 percent to 2.7 percent growth. The Fed also expects the unemployment rate to drop to between 7.8 percent and 8 percent by the end of the year. The rate is currently 8.2 percent. Oil prices have hovered between US$102 and US$104 in low trading volume most of this month as traders wait for more clarity on Europe’s debt crisis and the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program. “The oil market continues to be very quiet,” Barclays Capital said in a report. “Most market participants are on hold, looking for some trigger.”