Crude climbs on strong economic reports

West Texas Intermediate oil climbed Tuesday as U.S. durable goods data and consumer confidence boosted economic optimism, while analysts forecast crude supplies fell.

WTI gained 0.6 percent after orders for U.S. durable goods jumped in July by the most on record, while consumer confidence reached the highest level in almost seven years. A government report Wednesday will probably show U.S. crude supplies fell 2.5 million barrels last week, according to a Bloomberg survey. Russian President Vladimir Putin began talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, as tensions flared on the two nations’ border.

“Things are getting better for the U.S. economy,” Bill O’Grady, chief market strategist at Confluence Investment Management in St. Louis, which oversees $2.6 billion, said by phone. “It’s absolutely undeniable that the U.S. is growing and that’s going to be good for fuel demand. We’ll now see if the U.S. is strong enough to be the locomotive of global growth.”

WTI for October delivery increased 51 cents to $93.86 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures dropped to $93.35 Monday, the lowest close since Jan. 14. The volume of all futures traded was 33 percent below the 100-day average at 4:42 p.m. Volume totaled 244,240 contracts yesterday, the lowest since Dec. 26, data compiled by Bloomberg showed.

Oil was little changed from the close after the American Petroleum Institute was said to report that U.S. crude supplies fell 1.3 million barrels last week by Bain Energy.

Brent for October settlement slipped 15 cents to end the session at $102.50 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Volumes were 29 percent lower than the 100-day average. The European benchmark oil closed at an $8.64 premium to WTI. The spread ended Monday at $9.30, the most since March 14.

Bookings for all U.S. goods meant to last at least three years rose 22.6 percent, the Commerce Department said Tuesday in Washington. Orders for non-military capital goods excluding aircraft fell 0.5 percent last month after a June increase of 5.4 percent that was the strongest since November.

Consumer confidence in the U.S. unexpectedly climbed in August to the highest level in almost seven years. The Conference Board’s sentiment gauge rose to 92.4, the highest since October 2007, from a revised 90.3 a month earlier, the New York-based private research group said Tuesday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a decline to 89.

The Energy Information Administration will probably report that U.S. gasoline inventories dropped by 1.6 million barrels in the week ended Aug. 22, according to the median estimate in the Bloomberg survey of 10 analysts. Analysts were split over whether stockpiles of distillate fuel, a category that includes diesel and heating oil, declined or rose.

“The market is up on expectations supplies will stay tight,” Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago, said by phone. “The economic data is giving us some support. The durable goods number increases demand expectations.”

The most Americans in six years will travel by car over the Labor Day holiday weekend, AAA predicts. About 29.7 million people plan to drive 50 miles or more from home during the five days ending Sept. 1, up from 29.3 million last year and the most since 2008, Fla.-based AAA, the biggest U.S. motoring organization, said in an Aug. 21 statement.

“Expectations about tomorrow’s inventory report are providing a boost to the market,” John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC, a New York-based hedge fund that focuses on energy, said by phone. “There should be strong crude demand from refiners making gasoline before a well-traveled Labor Day holiday.”

September gasoline futures increased 1.34 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $2.7631 a gallon on the Nymex. It was the highest settlement since Aug. 7. Ultra low sulfur diesel for September delivery advanced 0.73 cent, or 0.3 percent, to close at $2.8442 a gallon.

Gasoline pump prices fell 0.4 cent to $3.431 a gallon nationwide Monday, the lowest since Feb. 24, AAA said. In Houston Tuesday, the average was $3.265 a gallon, down from $3.270 Monday.

Putin and Poroshenko began a meeting with the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton and the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan at a summit in Minsk of the Customs Union, a Russian-led trade bloc. No separate bilateral meeting is planned between them, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday.

The conflict between Ukraine’s government and pro-Russian separatists has left more than 2,000 dead since Putin annexed Crimea in March. Ukraine said today 200 rebels and 12 Ukrainian servicemen died in the past 24 hours. Ukraine released video footage of Russian servicemen it said it captured when an armored column crossed the frontier Monday.

“The situation in Ukraine is terrible and could easily escalate,” O’Grady said. “Oil is looking like a safe place to park your funds given the geopolitical uncertainty and the economic strength in the U.S.”