LONDON  - New York crude oil prices hit a fresh three-month peak on Thursday after encouraging economic figures in top consumer the United States.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for September, jumped as high as $95.14, following upbeat jobless claims and housing construction data. It later stood at $94.82, up 49 cents from Wednesday’s closing level. Brent North Sea crude for delivery in September meanwhile slipped 20 cents to $116.05 per barrel approaching midday in London, one day after striking $116.72 — the highest level since early May.

Weekly numbers for new claims for unemployment insurance, an indicator of the pace of layoffs, came in as expected and in the same range of the past four months while July data on new housing construction, although slightly down from June, gave a picture of an industry steadily picking up pace.

The news boosted New York prices due to the brighter oil demand outlook for the world’s biggest economy.

The oil market had also spiked on Wednesday after the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude inventories plunged 3.7 million barrels in the week to August 10, far heavier than the market had expected. Falling US inventories indicate stronger demand.

“The release of the weekly EIA oil inventories figures showed a large decline in crude oil inventories, bring optimism about a recovery in the US oil demand,” said Sucden analyst Myrto Sokou.

Prices also soared on fresh hopes of more economic stimulus measures in Asian powerhouse China.

“Buyers were encouraged by news from China overnight,” added GFT Markets analyst David Morrison.

“Premier Wen Jiabao said that China faces economic headwinds, but that the recent moderation in inflation data gives the government more room for monetary easing.

“This boosted hopes that the People’s Bank of China may soon provide further stimulus... Any such loosening of monetary policy would be seen as positive for oil demand.”

Prices were also supported by geopolitical tensions amid fighting in Syria, in the crude-rich Middle East, and major oil producer Iran’s standoff with Western powers over its controversial nuclear programme.

Concerns about supply shortfalls arising from forthcoming maintenance in the North Sea also sparked higher prices this week.

“Besides supply outages in the North Sea and ongoing geopolitical tensions in the Near and Middle East, yesterday’s inventory report ... contributed to the renewed price climb,” said Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch.

In recent days, oil sentiment was also bolstered by mounting expectations of fresh stimulus measures from the European Central Bank and the US Federal Reserve.