The price of oil recovered some of its earlier losses on Friday after a report on the U.S. jobs market showed more workers were hired in October than analysts had expected, an encouraging sign for energy demand in the world's largest economy.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for December delivery was down 15 cents to $86.94 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The contract was even lower before the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy generated 171,000 jobs in October, higher than the 125,000 or so expected in the markets. The unemployment rate, which is based on a separate survey, rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent, but that was in line with predictions.
The figures point to a slow but steady recovery in the U.S. economy. Added to upbeat economic surveys this week on consumer confidence, the housing market and the manufacturing sector, the figures helped put a floor under commodity prices.
Crude oil prices were weighed down somewhat earlier on expectations that demand would likely be subdued in the aftermath of the massive storm that slammed into the U.S. East Coast earlier this week caused oil prices to sag on Friday.
"Sentiment on the oil market remains muted," said a report from Commerzbank in Frankfurt, adding that the Nymex contract had been boosted only temporarily from an unexpected decline in U.S. crude oil stocks.
Despite ongoing disruptions at refineries and supply terminals in the U.S. Northeast, analysts said the U.S. remained stocked with sufficient supplies and that demand for crude oil would be lower than anticipated for a few weeks.
Caroline Bain, commodities analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit, said the storm's impact on the oil market would likely be temporary, assuming the resumption of refinery operations.
On Thursday, the benchmark contract for crude oil gained 85 cents to finish at $87.09 per barrel in New York.
In London, Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, was up 24 cents to $108.41 per barrel.
In other trading:
- Heating oil lost 0.37 cents to $3.0295 per gallon.
- Wholesale gasoline added 0.98 cents at $2.6434 per gallon.
- Natural gas fell 5.7 cents to $3.642 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this story.