Oil Futures Climb On U.S. Jobs Data

By John KellDow Jones Newswires

NEW YORK--U.S. oil prices climbed Friday as traders were encouraged by job growth in March that could boost demand for petroleum products, even though the data slightly missed expectations.

Light, sweet crude for May delivery rose 85 cents, or 0.8%, to $101.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude on ICE Futures Europe rose 57 cents, or 0.5%, to $106.72 a barrel.

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The Labor Department said the U.S. added a seasonally adjusted 192,000 jobs in March, less than the gain of 200,000 projected by economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

Still, higher employment could indicate increased demand for petroleum products in the U.S., which is the top oil-consuming nation.

"Demand is going to get bigger and better," said Carl Larry, president of research and consulting group Oil Outlooks & Opinions. "The more jobs that are created, the more demand will increase for oil."

Meanwhile, some observers say the focus next week will shift to three reports: The U.S. Energy Information Administration, the International Energy Agency and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are scheduled to release their monthly reports next week, which will indicate expectations of supply and demand in the global market.

"They should give us a fresh look at the market's balances and fundamentals," said Andy Lebow, senior vice president for energy at Jefferies Bache LLC. The reports will signal oil demand heading into the second half of the year, Mr. Lebow said.

Both observers said the current price for oil is fair, with Mr. Lebow saying the range of $95 to $105 a barrel is acceptable.

Looking ahead, as the economy continues to show strength, Mr. Larry believes oil prices will rise and could head toward $120 a barrel this summer.

Reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, for May delivery settled up nearly 0.7% to $2.9313 a gallon. May diesel settled at $2.9079 a gallon, up 0.17 cent.