Oil rises to above $96 ahead of US jobs data
The price of oil rose above $96 a barrel Friday as traders remained confident that the European Central Bank's latest bond-buying plan will go a long way to resolving Europe's debt crisis, ahead of key U.S. jobs figures.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for October delivery was up 54 cents at $96.07 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 17 cents to settle at $95.53 on Thursday.
In London, Brent crude was up 56 cents to $114.05 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
Crude was driven as high as $97.71 on Thursday by word that the European Central Bank would buy unlimited amounts of government bonds to help lower borrowing costs for euro nations that are struggling with debt.
Prices were also boosted by a drop in U.S. unemployment benefit applications and the release of an Energy Information Administration report that showed U.S. crude supplies dropping by more than expected last week. Hurricane Isaac interrupted deliveries of oil imports and refinery activity along the Gulf Coast.
The oil market was looking ahead to the release of U.S. jobs figures for August, to be released later Friday, to help gauge the health of the world's No. 1 economy.
Analysts forecast that the economy generated 135,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained at 8.3 percent, according to a survey by FactSet. That's below the 163,000 jobs gained in July, but an improvement from meager hiring in the spring.
Oil could benefit from lower job creation because it could spur the U.S. Federal Reserve to implement measures to stimulate faster economic growth, while more jobs could be a sign that demand for crude is on the rise.
Analysts said renewed expectations about a possible release of strategic oil reserves in the United States prevented prices from rising further.
"The talk is of 100-180 million barrels, which would far exceed the 60 million barrels released in total last year," said a report from Commerzbank in Frankfurt.
In other Nymex energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline futures rose 2.82 cents to $3.0192 per gallon. Heating oil rose 1.41 cents to $3.1566 a gallon. Natural gas fell 1.2 cents to $2.764 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.