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Crude oil up despite unconvincing US jobs report

(AP) – The price of oil edged to above $98 a barrel Friday after the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 6.6.percent even as U.S. payrolls rose less than expected.

By mid-afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was up 41 cents at $98.25 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the contract rose 46 cents, boosted by a positive report on the U.S. labor market and colder temperatures.

The unemployment rate fell to its lowest point since October 2008 despite a second straight month of weak hiring. The Labor Department said employers added 113,000 jobs, after adding just 75,000 in December. Job gains averaged 154,000 the past three months, down from 201,000 in the preceding three months.

Despite the immediate gains, analysts said worries over growth in the U.S. and developing economies could later end up dragging down crude prices.

“The emerging market concerns and other flagging data will undermine the recent weather-related support for crude and refined products,” said The Kilduff Report, edited by Michael Fitzpatrick.

With chilly temperatures across the middle of the U.S. and into the Northeast, demand for heating oil remains strong. That should boost refinery demand for crude oil.

“The winter weather remains supportive, as temperatures in the Northeast will remain upward of 10-degrees below normal over the next several days,” The Kilduff Report said.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was up 56 cents at $107.75 a barrel.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

_ Wholesale gasoline rose 2.5 cents to $2.708 a gallon.

_ Natural gas was down 4.8 cents at $4.883 per 1,000 cubic feet.

_ Heating oil price rose 2.33 cents at $3.0184 a gallon.


Christopher S. Rugaber in Washington contributed to this story.

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