Oil falls as mixed US jobs data clouds Fed rate hike

oil-pricesOil prices fell Friday as investors weighed the outlook for the US economy after mixed jobs data gave no clue on the timing for a Federal Reserve interest rate increase.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for October delivery lost 70 cents, or 1.5 percent, at $46.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The global benchmark, Brent North Sea crude for October, closed at $49.61 a barrel in London, down $1.07, or 2.1 percent, from Thursday’s settlement.

“There isn’t any real optimism to support prices,” said energy economist James Williams of WTRG Economics.

The US August jobs report Friday was not clearly strong enough to raise the prospects for a Fed rate hike at the September 16-17 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, economists said, although some said the central bank would still lift its key zero-level rate next month.

The US economy added fewer jobs than expected last month, but the unemployment rate fell from 5.3 percent to 5.1 percent, its lowest level since April 2008.

Citi Futures analyst Tim Evans said the market drop appeared in part due to traders avoiding risk before the long US holiday weekend. Stock markets will be closed Monday for the Labor Day holiday.

With global crude-oil supply persistently outweighing demand, oil prices have slid more than 50 percent from June 2015. After volatile trade this week, WTI ended 1.8 percent higher and Brent lost 0.9 percent.

The Baker Hughes US oil rig count, closely watched for any sign of a slowdown in high US crude production, fell by 13 to 662, nearly 60 percent lower than a year ago.

“This mean fewer wells and less production going forward,” said WTRG’s Williams. US crude-oil production fell by 119,000 barrels to 9.22 million barrels a day last week, according to Department of Energy data.

“The reality is that the world market is still oversupplied by about two million barrels a day,” Williams said.


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