Oil down as US unemployment claims up more than expected; market eyes jobs report

01/31/2013 10:46 EST | Updated 04/02/2013 05:12 EDT
The price of oil fell Thursday as U.S. unemployment claims rose more than expected.

Benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery fell 45 cents to close at US$97.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, although it still finished up more than $5 for the month of January, the biggest monthly increase since August.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 65 cents to US$115.55 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

The U.S. government said the number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose sharply last week, although it remained at a level consistent with moderate hiring.

Traders will get a further indication about the strength of the jobs market Friday, when the U.S. Labour Department issues the closely followed monthly non-farm payrolls report.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex, wholesale gasoline lost one cent to US$3.03 a U.S. gallon (3.79 litres), heating oil rose one cent to US$3.13 a gallon an natural gas was flat at US$3.24 per 1,000 cubic feet.