NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--Crude futures snapped a six-session losing streak Wednesday, boosted by the Federal Reserve's improved outlook for the U.S. economy even as concern grew about Europe's recovery.

However, gains were limited to light, sweet crude for June delivery, which expires Thursday. The contract settled 46 cents, or 0.7%, higher at $69.87 a barrel, while much more active July futures settled 22 cents, or 0.3%, lower at $72.48 a barrel. Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange recently traded 83 cents, or 1.1%, lower at $73.60 a barrel.

Futures had ended lower in 10 of the previous 11 sessions, in a nearly $20 a barrel plunge reflecting growing concern that Greece's high debt level would have a negative effect on European economic growth. A European Union-International Monetary Fund aid plan worth nearly $1 trillion hasn't stopped the slide, particularly as finances in Portugal and Spain look increasingly shaky.

The oil market has looked more to China and the U.S. to provide growth this year, but global demand would be unlikely to escape the downward pull of a European slowdown, said Matt Zeman, president of trading at LaSalle Futures Group in Chicago.

"If you take the E.U. out of the equation ... you've taken a huge bite out of the consumer populace that can help drive this global recovery," Zeman said. "It only makes sense that oil prices are going to fall."

Doubts about Europe's economy had sent June futures as low as $67.90 a barrel earlier Wednesday. However, futures clawed back late in the session after minutes released from an April meeting of the Federal Reserve's policy body showed members raising their growth forecast for 2010. The central bank now predicts the U.S. economy will grow between 3.2% and 3.7% this year, up from a January forecast of 2.8% to 3.5% expansion.

Although the minutes are from last month, before markets began to sell off, the more optimistic take on growth in the world's biggest oil-consuming country provided new support for oil prices. Some investors may have then exited bets that crude futures will continue to fall, in case the oil market has hit bottom.

"If you had a nice gain [this week], you could take some out and wait, and reassess whether the market has a lot more to go on the downside," said Gene McGillian, an analyst with Tradition Energy in Stamford, Conn. "We're down close to $20 in less than three weeks ... [traders] are probably looking to take some profits right now."

Weekly oil inventory data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration had little impact on trading. The report, for the week ended May 14, showed total crude and fuel supplies rising for a fifth consecutive week, including a 900,000-barrel jump in stockpiles at Cushing, Okla., the Nymex contract's delivery point, to a record 37.9 million barrels.

Nationwide, oil inventories rose 200,000 barrels in the week ended May 14, while gasoline stocks fell 300,000 barrels and distillate inventories, including heating oil and diesel, fell by 1 million barrels. Refinery runs dropped to 87.9% of capacity, from 88.4% a week earlier.

Front-month June reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, settled 2.79 cents, or 1.4%, lower at $2.0152 a gallon. June heating oil settled 1.63 cents, or 0.8%, lower at $1.9452 a gallon.


More information on settlements and highs and lows for futures on Nymex and ICE platforms can be found by searching for the following headlines:


Nymex Light Crude Oil Close
Nymex Harbor RBOB Gasoline Close
Nymex Heating Oil Close
ICE Brent Crude Oil Close
ICE Gas Oil Close

-By Brian Baskin, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2453; brian.baskin@dowjones.com