, as glum economic data from the U.S. and Germany boosted expectations that central banks will act to shore up growth.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for June delivery was up 14 cents to $91.57 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Oil had its biggest daily gain since December on Wednesday, as speculation grew that the European Central Bank will cut interest rates next week. The contract jumped $2.25, or 2.5 percent, to finish at $91.43.
Reports released this week pointing to a decline in monthly orders for U.S. durable goods as well as a drop in the Ifo index of German business confidence reinforced expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank would extend support to their respective economies.
"Oil prices are continuing to profit from a general brightening of sentiment on the financial markets," said analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "There are no fundamental reasons for the current price increase."
Commerzbank said a recent drop in U.S. gasoline supplies was likely not the driving factor behind crude's rise.
"Declining gasoline stocks at this time of year are not unusual ... because this is when refineries carry out maintenance work and thus produce correspondingly less gasoline," Commerzbank said. "At present, U.S. gasoline stocks are slightly above the long-term average, so there can be no talk of any tightening of supply."
The U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that gasoline stocks fell by 3.93 million barrels during the week ending April 19.
Brent crude, which is used to price oil used by many U.S. refiners, was up 3 cents to $101.76 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:
— Gasoline rose 0.46 cent to $2.7564 per gallon.
— Heating oil added 1 cent to $2.8377 a gallon.
— Natural gas gained 1.6 cents to $4.182 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.