The price of oil rose to near $96 a barrel today ahead of the release of Conference Board's index of leading indicators for the US economy.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for June delivery was up 45 cents to $95.61 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 86 cents yesterday.

Brent crude, a benchmark for many international oil varieties, was up 71 cents to $104.49 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Analysts say the upward momentum in oil prices may be limited amid signs that the US and European economies still face considerable challenges.

Applications for US unemployment aid rose last week by 32,000 to a seasonally adjusted 360,000, the highest in six weeks, the Labor Department said this week.

A report on housing was neutral, while manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic region fell. That data came on top of confirmation that the euro zone remained in recession after contracting for a sixth quarter in a row for the January-March period.

Oil prices are likely to be limited also by a stronger dollar, which makes crude more expensive for traders using other currencies, and reports showing US stockpiles of crude are near all-time highs.