Oil Prices Diverge in Week

Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. oil prices rose Friday as traders weighed expectations of growing demand against concerns that the market remains oversupplied.

Light, sweet crude settled up 45 cents, or 0.8%, to $59.39 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the global benchmark, fell 15 cents, or 0.2%, to $65.39 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange.

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The U.S. contract posted a 0.4% gain this week while Brent fell 1.6%.

Prices rose early in the session after the Labor Department reported that U.S. employers added a seasonally adjusted 223,000 jobs in April and the unemployment rate fell to 5.4% from 5.5% the prior month. Higher employment can put more commuters on the road, a positive indicator for oil demand.

"A favorable employment figure conjures up images of some increased gasoline demand, and that's helping out" the market, said Jim Ritterbusch, president of energy-advisory firm Ritterbusch & Associates.

Prices later reversed those gains on skepticism about this week's rally, before rising again.

Prices rallied in April on expectations that U.S. production was nearing a peak, but output is holding near multi-decade highs. Some analysts say prices of more than $60 a barrel are unsustainable given the current oversupply in the market, because producers might increase production if prices hold above that level.

The number of rigs drilling for oil in the U.S. fell by 11 to 668 rigs, the lowest number since September 2010, oil-field-services firm Baker Hughes Inc. said Friday.

The pace of decline has slowed, and some analysts say the rig count could be nearing a trough. U.S. oil prices rallied above $60 a barrel earlier in the week, a price level that could prompt some producers to add rigs.

In the Permian Basin in Texas, a key region for shale-oil production, the number of rigs went up by one in the week.

Gasoline futures settled up 0.15 cent, or 0.1%, at $1.9918 a gallon. Prices lost 2.6% in the week.

Diesel futures slid 0.8 cent, or 0.3%, to $1.9537 a gallon, posting a 1.4% weekly loss.

(By Nicole Friedman)