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Oil prices rebound slightly on US data

Global oil prices rebounded gently on Thursday, reversing earlier losses on the back of improving economic data in top crude consumer the United States.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in July added 48 cents to stand at $103.97 a barrel in late afternoon London deals.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) light sweet crude for July, gained ten cents to $95.98 a barrel.

"All it took was some positive US economic data and suddenly the sun came out and UK markets recovered into positive territory," noted CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

US retail sales rose percent in May from April, driven by a surge in auto sales, official data showed.

In addition, the Labor Department said that initial claims for jobless benefits fell by 12,000 to 334,000 for the week ended June 8.

The upbeat data boosted sentiment because the United States is the world's biggest consumer of oil.

Crude futures had earlier fallen after a surprise uptick in US crude stockpiles, but losses were tempered by growing concerns over turmoil in Turkey, analysts said.

"Many were expecting a seasonal drawdown on stockpiles, with the US driving season well underway, but that has not been the case," David Lennox, resource analyst at Fat Prophets in Sydney, told AFP.

The US Energy Information Administration on Wednesday reported that US crude inventories rose 2.5 million barrels in the week ending June 7, instead of the decline of 400,000 barrels expected by analysts.

The data indicated weaker demand in the world's top crude oil consumer during the summer, when Americans traditionally take to the roads for holidays.

However, fears among investors about nationwide protests in Turkey are capping losses, Lennox said.

"The market is closely watching the situation in Turkey and whether it could lead to supply shocks elsewhere in the Middle East," he said.

On Thursday, Turkey urged thousands of protesters to evacuate an Istanbul park, saying it might hold a referendum on a controversial development project there in a bid to end nearly two weeks of anti-government unrest.

Police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators in the capital Ankara in the early hours while the mood was subdued in Istanbul's Taksim Square, which has witnessed nights of running battles.