Oil above $108 on jobless claims; gold gains 0.5%

Crude-oil futures closed higher on Thursday as better-than-expected data improved the economic outlook.

August oil futures added 1.5 percent to finish at $108.04 a barrel, the highest price since March 2012.

Weekly jobless claims fell to their lowest level since early May and the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's manufacturing survey posted its highest reading in about two years.

The U.S. jobless claims dropped to 334,000 last week from a revised 358,000 the prior period, the Labor Department said. The median forecast of 49 economists polled by Bloomberg was 345,000.

Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region expanded more than forecast in July, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s general economic index showed. The gauge covers eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.

Moving to metals, gold futures closed higher on Thursday, rising for the third time in four days on signs of increasing physical purchases.

Gold for August delivery gained 0.5 percent to end at $1,284.20 an ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Elsewhere in metals, silver was the only decliner among major Comex metals.  September silver skidded 0.2 percent to $19.39 an ounce.

September copper settled at $3.13 a pound, down less than half a cent. October platinum tacked on 0.3 percent to $1,414.80 an ounce and September palladium rose 1.6 percent to $747.50 an ounce.