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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crude futures rose on Thursday after two straight days of losses as data showing a drop in U.S. jobless claims combined with uncertainty about supply disruptions to prompt short-covering ahead of a long holiday weekend.
Data showing initial jobless benefits claims fell to the lowest level in nearly four years last week arrived a day ahead of the closely watched U.S. March nonfarm payrolls report, expected to show a gain of 203,000 jobs, including a rise in private payrolls.
The West's tightening sanctions hampering Iran's oil exports and the uncertainty ahead of talks on Tehran's disputed nuclear program expected to be held at midmonth also helped support crude prices.
Crude futures fell more than 2 percent on Wednesday after data showed a sharp rise in U.S. crude stocks last week, a jump of 9.0 million barrels.
The CME Group's (CME.O) New York Mercantile Exchange will not have an open outcry session or trading on the Globex electronic trading platform on Friday, observing an Easter holiday.
Trading will resume at the normal 6:00 p.m. EDT (10.00 p.m. GMT) on Sunday for trade date Monday, April 9.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, May crude rose $1.84, or 1.81 percent, to settle at $103.31 a barrel, having traded from $101.37 to $103.40.
For the week, U.S. crude gained 29 cents, or 0.28 percent.
NYMEX May RBOB gasoline rose 0.69 cent, or 0.21 percent, to settle at $3.3405 a gallon. For the week, front-month RBOB fell 4.94 cents, or 1.46 percent, after eight straight weekly gains.
NYMEX May heating oil rose 0.83 cent, or 0.26 percent, to settle at $3.1692 a gallon. For the week, front-month heating oil managed a 0.08 cent gain, or 0.03 percent.
Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) will cut production from Mars field, a major supplier of sour crude from the Gulf of Mexico, by 50 percent for a month beginning on May 15, a buyer of the crude said.
Iran's oil flows to Greece have stopped this month, depriving the Islamic Republic of one of its most loyal European customers and leaving Greece, with its financing troubles, struggling to buy elsewhere.
Exports of ultra-low sulfur diesel from Russia's Baltic port of Primorsk will be more than halved in April due to refinery maintenance work, sources at oil companies said.
A major Chinese ship insurer will halt indemnity cover for tankers carrying Iranian oil from July, narrowing the insurance options for Tehran's main export already constricted by payment barriers caused by Western sanctions.
Russian state-owned oil group Zarubezhneft met with Iranian officials to discuss upstream oil projects in Iran amid international sanctions against Tehran, which Moscow has called "counterproductive," a company source said.
Fears about Spain's high debt level pushed the euro down broadly to its lowest level against the dollar in three weeks. <USD/>
Copper steadied following a 3 percent plunge the day before, helped by consumer buying and upbeat jobs data in the United States, but a long Easter weekend in the United States. and European markets limited gains. <MET/L>
U.S. stocks mostly traded sideways, but the S&P 500 ended its worst week this year as growing pressure on Europe's debt markets revived concerns about the region's financial stability. .N
Gold rose as investors covered short positions after a sharp two-day pullback, and the crude oil rally also buoyed the precious metal that sank early this week on disappointment about further U.S. monetary easing. <GOL/>
No NYMEX open outcry session on Friday. NYMEX energy trading resumes on Globex electronic platform on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) for Monday, April 9 trade date.
U.S. March nonfarm payrolls report due at 8:30 a.m. EDT (12.30 p.m. GMT) on Friday.
CHNG CHNG VOL VOL CLc1 103.31 1.84 1.8% 101.37 103.40 222,434 300,729 CLc2 103.83 1.80 1.8% 101.92 103.92 75,508 106,531 LCOc1 123.43 1.09 0.9% 121.80 123.54 177,164 250,186 RBc1 3.3405 0.0069 0.2% 3.2945 3.3460 44,200 84,919 RBc2 3.2766 0.0138 0.4% 3.2329 3.2791 37,304 70,116 HOc1 3.1692 0.0083 0.3% 3.1419 3.1895 43,693 61,755 HOc2 3.1785 0.0096 0.3% 3.1504 3.1947 19,979 25,990
CURRENT Apr 04 30D AVG Apr 04 NET CHNG
Reporting by Robert Gibbons and Gene Ramos; editing by Jim Marshall