Oil erases loss, above $103, as U.S. data helps

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Oil reversed an earlier loss to trade above $103 a barrel on Thursday as a higher-than expected rise in U.S. retail sales and a fall in jobless claims boosted the economic outlook, although subdued global demand limited the rebound.

U.S. retail sales increased 0.6 percent in May after edging up 0.1 percent in April. A separate report showed the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week, nearing its lowest level in five years.

Brent crude rose 14 cents to $103.63 a barrel by 1347 GMT, having traded as low as $102.75. Prices have declined from a 2013 high near $120 reached on Feb. 8. U.S. oil fell 19 cents to $95.69.

Oil was down earlier in the session on reports indicating weak demand, including a cut in the outlook for global economic growth by the World Bank.

"The demand picture is still very subdued at the moment," said Carsten Fritsch, analyst at Commerzbank, who added that a falling U.S. dollar earlier in the day lent support to Brent.

Also, on Wednesday, the International Energy Agency said modest economic growth was limiting oil demand worldwide, and some developed economies would see absolute declines in oil consumption in 2013.

The dollar, which pared losses after the latest U.S. data, earlier was near a four-month low against a basket of currencies, falling as investors reduced bets on gains in the U.S. currency taken out on expectations the Federal Reserve would soon scale back monetary easing.

A weak dollar makes dollar-denominated commodities cheaper for holders of other currencies and tends to support oil prices.

Oil also drew support from disruption to flows. Libya is struggling to hold output stable, while supply of North Sea crude which underpins Brent is expected to be more sharply reduced than usual by maintenance this summer.

(Reporting by Manash Goswami and Alex Lawler; editing by William Hardy)



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