Oil Rises on Positive Sign for U.S. Jobs

Oil rose the most in two weeks Thursday on a positive signal from the U.S. jobs market. Natural gas rose 3 percent as supplies dropped more than expected.

Benchmark oil for April delivery gained $1.13 to finish at $91.56 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Natural gas futures jumped 11 cents to $3.58 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The four-week average for applications for unemployment benefits dropped last week to its lowest level in five years, the Labor Department said Thursday. A government report Friday is expected to show that employers in the U.S., the biggest consumer of oil and petroleum products, added 152,000 jobs last month.

Some support for crude came from a weaker dollar, which makes oil cheaper and a more enticing investment for traders using other currencies. On Thursday, the euro was up to $1.3110 from $1.2974 late Wednesday in New York.

Oil is still down about 6 percent over the past three weeks, a drop that has been showing up at the gas pump. The average price for a gallon of gasoline is now $3.72 after falling 6 cents in the past week. That's given drivers some relief after pump prices spiked around 50 cents from Jan. 1 to the end of February.

Meanwhile the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reported that natural gas in storage shrank by 146 billion cubic feet to 2.083 trillion cubic feet in the week ended March 1. Analysts expected a draw of 130 billion to 134 billion cubic feet. Natural gas supplies are now 15 percent below year-ago levels, a sign that the U.S. is whittling away at a surplus that pushed natural gas prices down to decade lows a year earlier.

Brent crude, used to price many kinds of oil imported by U.S. refineries, rose 9 cents at $111.15 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

  • Wholesale gasoline was flat at $3.12 a gallon.
  • Heating oil rose less than a penny to $2.98 a gallon.

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