It was a choppy day for the price of oil, as crude futures touched above $61 and below $60 over the course of the day. Benchmark crude for delivery in August picked up late, gaining 27 cents to settle at $60.41 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract went to a low of $59.25 earlier in the day. On Wednesday, the price on the contract slid for a sixth straight day, losing $2.79 yesterday. Thursday introduced a new set of data for investors to interpret. On the jobs front, the U.S. Labor Department said that the number of new people applying for
unemployment benefits fell by 52,000 last week to come to 565,000. Still, the number continuing on roles grew to a record high. Dull retail sales numbers were also on investors minds today. On Wednesday, after the market close, Alcoa ( AA) kick-started the earnings season with a slightly smaller loss than expected. Wednesday also brought with it fresh, weekly inventory data from the Energy Information Administration, showing an unexpected swelling of gasoline inventories . While several stocks gained as investors moved cautiously today, many big oil and energy stocks were holding on to gains in the afternoon. Shares of Chevron ( CVX) finished up 15 cents to $62.93. ConocoPhillips ( COP) shares, which fell 1.4% Wednesday, closed up nearly 2%, or 78 cents, at $40.22. Shares of Marathon Oil ( MRO) and Occidental Petroleum ( OXY) gained 2% and 2.4%, respectively. On the other hand, Exxon Mobil ( XOM), which made gains early in the morning, lost 40 cents to finish at $65.86 by the closing bell. Refiner Valero Energy ( VLO) ended the session down 2 cents at $15.80.