The price of oil fell Thursday, as the dollar strengthened against some foreign currencies and concerns grew about inflation in China.
Benchmark oil for June delivery lost 23 cents to finish at $96.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The dollar gained against other currencies; including the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen, topping 100 yen for the first time in four years. Since oil is traded in dollars, a stronger dollar makes crude less appealing to investors using foreign currency.
Energy markets may also be feeling some pressure from higher-than-expected inflation figures from China. Those rising prices could slow the economy of the world's second-largest oil consumer.
The Labor Department on Thursday reported the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits last week fell by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 323,000. Layoffs have receded to pre-recession levels. The less volatile four-week average dropped by 6,250 to 336,750, the lowest since November 2007, just before the Great Recession began.
A more robust hiring environment suggests businesses will be consuming more energy, not to mention more people commuting to work.
Gasoline pump prices rose again Thursday, with the national average up a penny to $3.55 a gallon. It was at $3.75 a year ago.
Brent crude, which is a benchmark for many international oil varieties, rose 13 cents to end at $104.47 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline rose 3 cents to finish at $2.89 a gallon.
— Heating oil rose 2 cents to end at $2.94 a gallon.
— Natural gas was flat at $3.98 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Christopher S. Rugaber in Washington, Pamela Sampson in Bangkok and Pablo Gorondi in Budapest contributed to this report.