Oil closes near $80

By Blake Ellis, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Oil prices rose Friday amid mixed economic data and weaker dollar that boosted the appeal of commodities.

What prices are doing: Crude oil for April delivery gained $1.49, or nearly 2%, to settle at $79.66 a barrel.

Click on the chart to view oil prices.

Oil retreated Thursday after a disappointing employment report and a stock selloff. But on Wednesday, crude rose to $80 a barrel after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke reassured investors that the Fed is unlikely to raise short-term interest rates in the near future.

What's driving prices: Oil was boosted by a weaker dollar Friday, which fell versus the euro amid lingering concerns about Greece's debt crisis. Oil and other commodities that are priced in dollars often rise when the U.S. currency weakens.

The government said fourth-quarter gross domestic product grew at a 5.9% annual rate, versus the initially reported rate of 5.7%. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected the reading to be unchanged at an annual rate of 5.7%.

A revised reading on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan fell slightly to 73.6 from 73.7. Economists were expecting it to rise to 74 .

The Chicago PMI, a regional read on manufacturing, rose to 62.6 in February from 61.5 in January, beating the expected decline to 59.7.

Meanwhile, existing home sales fell to a 5.05 million unit annual rate in January from a revised 5.44 million unit rate in December, the National Association of Realtors said Friday. Economists had forecast sales would rise to a 5.5 million unit rate.

What analysts are saying: "The price of oil has been supported by the Fed, yet with rising concerns of debt and credit issues in Europe, the dollar is looking better every day," Phil Flynn, a senior market analyst at PFG Best said in a research note. "There is a shifting of the economic props that have been keeping us up, and that will lead to lower prices over the long run."

Flynn said he wouldn't be surprised if oil fell as low as $40 a barrel this year on declining demand.

Gasoline prices: The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline rose to $2.701, up 0.8 cent from the previous day's price of $2.693. This is the eighth consecutive increase, according to motorist group AAA. To top of page

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