The price of oil remained close to $98 a barrel Monday after figures showing stronger U.S. hiring suggested demand for crude could increase.
By early afternoon in Europe,
benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery was down 2 cents at $97.63 a barrel
time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract
closed up 27 cents at $97.65 on Friday.
U.S. data has been showing strong
signs of economic recovery, helping the Nymex contract rise last week by nearly
6 percent, its largest gain since early July.
The Labor Department said Friday that
the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 7 percent in November after
employers added 203,000 jobs last month, more than expected. Earlier data
showed the U.S. economy grew at a 3.6 percent annualized rate in July through
September, the fastest since early 2012.
"Market participants have been
encouraged by the recent string of positive economic data," said a note to
clients from Sucden Financial Research in London.
Some investors remain cautious,
however, as a stronger U.S. economy would pave the way for the Federal Reserve
to pull back on its monetary stimulus program.
The Fed has been buying $85 billion a
month in bonds to stimulate the economy, also known as quantitative easing. The
program has kept interest rates low and has boosted the appeal of commodities
like oil to investors looking for larger profits.
Prices were receiving support,
meanwhile, from data showing that China's imports of crude oil rose an annual
3.2 percent during the first 11 months of the year.
Brent crude, a benchmark for
international oils, was down 58 cents at $111.03 a barrel on the ICE Futures
exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on
- Wholesale gasoline rose was nearly
flat at $2.727 a gallon.
- Heating oil lost 0.16 cent to
$3.0549 a gallon.
- Natural gas gained 7 cents to $4.184
per 1,000 cubic feet.