09/06/2013 01:12 EDT | Updated 11/06/2013 05:12 EST

Oil tops $110 after US jobs data raises hopes of continued Fed stimulus, Putin backs Syria

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The price of oil topped $110 a barrel Friday as Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country will continue helping Syria even if it comes under attack.

U.S. economic news also gave a boost to oil as the latest jobs data fueled expectations that the Federal Reserve will keep its economic stimulus measures in place longer than expected.

U.S. benchmark oil for October delivery rose $1.92, or 1.8 per cent, to $110.29 a barrel in afternoon trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It's the first time in a week that oil has passed $110.

President Barack Obama has been trying to win support at home and abroad for military action against Syria. Speaking at a briefing after Friday's Group of 20 summit, Putin answered with a firm "we will" when asked if Russia will keep providing assistance to Syria if it's attacked.

Ten members of the Group of 20 joined the U.S. in a joint statement accusing the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical weapons attack on civilians last month and calling for a strong international response against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The statement stopped short of explicitly calling for military action against Syria.

In the U.S., the Labor Department reported that employers added 169,000 jobs in August, while July's figure was corrected downward from an earlier estimate of 162,000 jobs to 104,000 jobs, the fewest in over a year. While the unemployment rate fell to 7.3 per cent, the lowest in nearly five years, it fell because more Americans stopped looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.

The slower hiring could lead the Fed to keep its bond-purchase program in place, or trim it more gradually than it would have otherwise. The stimulus program is seen favouring investments in commodities like oil and in stocks as they could provide better returns than bonds.

Brent, the benchmark for international crudes, was up 84 cents to $116.11 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline rose 2 cents to $2.86 per gallon.

— Natural gas fell 5 cents to $3.53 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil added 2 cents to $3.16 per gallon.


Pamela Sampson in Bangkok, Pablo Gorondi in Budapest and Christopher S. Rugaber in Washington contributed to this report.