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Oil mixed as US jobs report gives modest lift to WTI

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Oil prices traded mixed Friday as traders weighed the global oversupply and modest demand, with an in-line US jobs report helping to lift the US benchmark contract.

[NEW YORK] Oil prices traded mixed Friday as traders weighed the global oversupply and modest demand, with an in-line US jobs report helping to lift the US benchmark contract.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for June delivery rose 45 cents to finish at US$58.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent North Sea crude for June, the European benchmark, fell 15 cents to settle at US$65.39 a barrel in London.

Both WTI and Brent hit their highest levels of 2015 on Wednesday then dived Thursday on renewed oversupply worries.

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"You had a situation where oil was overbought a couple days ago, so you definitely could justify a pullback in both commodities, but you had a couple events here in the US that were supportive of the market," said Bob Yawger of Mizuho Securities.

Mr Yawger said that the Labor Department's US jobs report Friday, showing firm job growth and a dip in the jobless rate to 5.4 per cent in April, implied "some demand" in the US, the largest consumer of crude oil.

In addition, he cited the weekly Baker Hughes count of active US oil rigs, which fell for the 22nd consecutive week, by 11 rigs. The falling oil rig count has led to expectations that US crude output will fall in the medium term.

"These were both distinctly American events, and I think that was probably the reason why we're higher and the Brent is lower," Mr Yawger said.

Gene McGillian of Tradition Energy pointed out that some North American producers were saying they would start increasing activity if WTI prices top US$65 a barrel.

"Even though there are expectations production levels are going to be dropping, we haven't seen that happen significantly," Mr McGillian said.

Meanwhile, a poor China trade report raised concerns about growth in the world's top energy consumer. Chinese trade data published on Friday showed imports fell for the sixth month in a row in April, suggesting sustained weakness in domestic demand.

"The trade data indicate that current growth momentum remains soft, calling for more monetary policy easing," Nomura economist Zhao Yang said in a note.

AFP

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