Oil prices rose for a third straight day on Friday after China said its economy grew as expected in the second quarter. It was the slowest pace since 2009, but the 7.6 percent growth rate was enough to calm analysts who feared worse results given a recent decline in manufacturing activity. China is the world's second-largest oil consumer behind the U.S.
"We're breathing a sigh of relief here," independent analyst Jim Ritterbusch said. "The market was looking for some bad numbers." As China's economy slows, analysts said the U.S. and other countries will likely pursue new measures to spark growth. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 72 cents to $86.80 per barrel in New York, while Brent crude increased $1.05 to $101.33 per barrel in London.
Simmering tensions over Iran's nuclear program also helped push up oil prices. Iranian media said the country's military has improved the accuracy and firing capabilities of its missiles, confirming a Pentagon report last month that Iran has made significant military advances. The reports followed new U.S. sanctions announced Thursday against companies and people connected to Iran's defense ministry. Iran has been sparring with the West as the U.S. and other nations try to force Iran to reveal more about its nuclear program. Iran has resisted and threatened to block a crucial Persian Gulf oil route.
Meanwhile, U.S. retail gasoline prices rose less than a penny to a national average of $3.388 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. A gallon of regular has risen by about three cents in the past week, though it's still 55 cents cheaper than its peak price in April.