West Texas Intermediate oil futures declined on Thursday, as disappointing data on U.S. retail sales dampened optimism over the strength of the economy. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil for delivery in April shed 45 cents, or 0.93%, to trade at $47.72 a barrel during U.S. morning hours. The Commerce Department reported that retail sales fell 0.6% in February, the third consecutive monthly decline. Economists had forecast in increase of 0.3%. Core retail sales, which exclude automobiles, gasoline and food, were flat following a 0.1% decline in January. Another report showed that U.S. import prices rose 0.4% in February, snapping seven months of declines, but the report indicated that inflation pressures remained muted due to lower petroleum prices. The weak data dampened optimism over the strength of the economic recovery and prompted investors to scale back expectations for a rate hike in the U.S. A day earlier, New York-traded oil prices shed 12 cents, or 0.25%, to settle at $48.17 a barrel after government data showed that oil supplies in the U.S. rose to the highest level on record last week. The U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its weekly report that U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 4.5 million barrels to 448.9 million last week, the most in at least 80 years. Oil prices have fallen sharply in recent months as OPEC resisted calls to cut output, while the U.S. pumped at the fastest pace in more than three decades, creating a glut in global supplies. Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil for April delivery rose 32 cents, or 0.55%, to trade at $57.86 a barrel. On Wednesday, London-traded Brent prices touched $55.92, a level not seen since February 11, before turning higher to end at $57.54, up $1.15, or 2.04%. The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback’s strength against a trade-weighted basket of six major currencies, hit lows of 98.65 and was last at 99.12, 0.53% lower for the day. Earlier the index rose to 100.05, a level last reached in April 2003. Weakness in the U.S. currency often sparks bargain buying of dollar-denominated oil futures. Meanwhile, the spread between the Brent and the WTI crude contracts stood at $10.14 a barrel, compared to $9.37 by close of trade on Wednesday.