NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The price of crude oil settled above $76 in trading on Friday, notching its biggest weekly gain since May, and one of its best trading weeks of 2010. Crude rallied for a weekly gain of 5.5%, with the gains coming in the second half of the week. Big economic data points on Thursday kept a crude rally that started on Wednesday going, with a decline in initial jobless claims, and a key government crude oil inventory report showing a larger-than-anticipated decline in crude stockpiles. On Wednesday, oil had finally broken a six session losing streak. Crude for August delivery pushed as high as $76.48 in trading on Friday. The Thursday intraday high for crude was $75.90. Brent crude was recently trading at $75.39, after ending the day on Thursday trading up $1.50 to $75.01 a barrel. The trading in oil this week has matched the larger market resurgence. The S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq were up again on Friday and amassed weekly gains above 5%. On Thursday, the closely watched U.S. Department of Energy crude inventory report showed an increase in gasoline and distillate stockpiles, which helped to push the price of heating oil higher also.
U.S. crude oil inventories decreased by 5 million barrels for the week ended July 2, a bigger decline than expected by analysts surveyed by Platts, who had forecast a decline of 3.5 million barrels of oil. Analysts polled by Reuters expected an even smaller decline of 2.3 million barrels. Gasoline inventories increased by 1.3 million barrels last week, while distillate fuel inventories increased by 300,000 barrels, according to the Department of Energy. August heating oil contracts settled above $2.02 on the Nymex in Friday trading. Gasoline futures settled above $2.07 on Friday afternoon. Trading action in the major oil company stocks was mixed on Friday morning. Anadarko Petroleum ( APC) led returns on Thursday, up 7%, and was up close to 2% on Friday morning. Anadarko has added $5 to its share price over the past two trading sessions. BP ( BP), which has rallied more than 24% since its oil spill low of $27 on June 25, had its only losing day of the week on Friday, down less than 1% at the close.
Total ( TOT), Exxon Mobil ( XOM) and Royal Dutch Shell ( RDS.A) were close to flat in trading on Friday. Chevron ( CVX) and ConocoPhillips ( COP) had the largest gains among the major oil stocks on Friday, up 2% and 1.5% respectively. Natural gas contracts on the Nymex settled at $4.40 on Friday, after settling on Thursday afternoon trading at $4.39. The Energy Department on Thursday reported an increase of 78 billion cubic feet of natural gas storage inventories for the week ended July 2, slightly above a market forecast of an increase at 70 billion cubic feet to 74 billion cubic feet of natural gas storage, according to a survey of analysts by Platts. -- Written by Eric Rosenbaum from New York. Follow TheStreet.com on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.