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Oil Prices Settle Higher on Bullish Data

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Crude oil prices finished the week on a positive note Friday on strong economic data out of Europe and bullish commodities commentary -- after putting the markets through a week of twists and turns.

Light sweet crude oil for June delivery rose 68 cents, or 0.7%, to settle at $99.65 a barrel.

The U.S. dollar index traded 0.8% higher at $75.72 as the euro fell 1% against the dollar at $1.411. On Friday, European officials said that Greece, Ireland and Portugal's debt burdens may be larger than previously expected. The news came as Europe's strongest economy, Germany, reported better-than-expected first-quarter economic expansion, stoking optimism about oil demand.

The Brent crude contract for July delivery traded 66 cents, or 0.6% higher, at $112.99.

On Friday, Germany, Europe's largest economy, posted first-quarter gross domestic product growth that rose 1.5% from the previous quarter, when a bitter winter allowed for only 0.4% growth.

First-quarter growth was well-above the average analyst estimate of 0.9%, beating the pre-crisis growth recorded in early 2008, and spurring optimism about oil demand.

France reported 1% GDP growth in the first-quarter, the biggest increase since the second-quarter of 2006 and well above the 0.3% growth reported in the fourth quarter. Analysts, on average, were expecting a 0.6% increase.

Overall, the eurozone economy expanded 0.8% in the first quarter vs. 0.3% in the previous quarter. This was above the consensus estimate of 0.6%.

Aside from the European data, oil was also given a boost with the help of bullish comments about commodities from Goldman Sachs head of commodities research Jeffrey Currie, who was sharing his thoughts on Bloomberg TV.

On Wednesday, light sweet crude oil for June delivery fell more than 5% on chatter about interest rate hikes in China, a bigger-than-expected increase in U.S. oil stocks last week and concerns about Greek sovereign debt.

Major oil players settled in the red Friday.

Chevron (CVX - Get Report) fell 0.4% to end at $102.39, BP (BP - Get Report) was down 1.5% at $42.93, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A - Get Report) tumbled 2.1% to $69.63, Exxon (XOM - Get Report) surrendered 0.2% at $80.87, Marathon Oil (MRO - Get Report) ticked 0.1% lower to $51.10, Total S.A. (TOT - Get Report) lost 1.9% at $57.45 and ConocoPhillips (COP - Get Report) gave up 0.1% at $71.43.

"Markets continue to hesitate," said Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank analyst Robin Bhar. "The data flow sends a contradictory message about the pace of growth (stabilising or slowing down?) and policymakers are having difficulty convincing the markets that they are making the right choice."

"Ultimately, market participants do not really know what kind of recovery they are facing."

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-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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Copyright 2011 Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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BP $29.42 -3.40%
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CVX $81.24 -2.00%
MRO $7.78 -8.00%
RDS.A $43.60 -2.40%


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