Oil settles lower a third day on jobs slump

NEW YORK Fri Aug 6, 2010 4:53pm EDT

Motorists are shown at gas pumps at a Chevron gasoline station in Burbank, California July 31, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Motorists are shown at gas pumps at a Chevron gasoline station in Burbank, California July 31, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Crude oil prices fell a third straight day on Friday, weighed down by a weak U.S. jobs report that also pulled Wall Street lower.

But the dollar's .DXY broad slump and weakness against the euro tempered oil's losses, and prices managed to settle above $80 a barrel, a higher finish versus a week ago.

U.S. crude for September delivery fell $1.31 or 1.6 percent to settle at $80.70 a barrel, having traded from $80.04 to $82.67.

Prices, which settled on Tuesday at a three-month high above $82, finished the week up $1.75, or 2.21 percent from last Friday's $78.95 settlement. Crude hit as high as $82.97 a barrel on Wednesday -- the highest since May 4 -- before ending that session lower following a government report showed a sharp rise in gasoline and distillate stocks last week.

On Friday, front-month ICE Brent crude fell $1.45 to settle at $80.16 a barrel.

U.S. nonfarm payrolls fell 131,000 in July, declining for the second straight month, the Labor Department said on Friday. Employers did add 71,000 private sector jobs, but that was less than the expected gain of 90,000.

The total job losses exceeded the 65,000 drop analysts had expected and the report's weakness added to concerns about the outlook for energy demand and the economy.

The unemployment rate was pegged at 9.5 percent, steady with June and lower than the 9.6 percent analysts expected. Hiring in June was much weaker than previously thought, the report said.

"The oil market's response to the jobs data appeared appropriate from our view and support within the $80-81 area has thus far held. However, the ability to remain north of $80 could be challenged next week amid what we see as some further slippage in the equities," said Jim Ritterbusch at Ritterbusch and associates in Galena, Illinois.

The dollar approached a 15-year low against the yen and a three-month low against the euro after the jobs data came out on Friday.

U.S. stocks fell after the nonfarm payroll report, with consumer stocks among the biggest losers.

"Crude oil prices have been following the stock market for months now. Stocks got hammered by the jobless data today and oil prices were tracking right along," said Mark Waggoner, president of Excel Futures Inc in Bend, Oregon.

Waggoner said he was watching the market to see if prices dropped below $79.60 a barrel, which he thought could send them back in last week's $72 to $79 a barrel trading range.

Industry sources kept watching developments in the Middle East including Israel's border clash with Lebanon and Iran's dispute with the West over Tehran's nuclear program.

Concern about being too short at the weekend with turmoil simmering in the Middle East could support oil prices, sources said.

Adding more uncertainty to the market, the UAE said on Friday that militants attacked the Japanese supertanker that was damaged in a partial explosion in the Strait of Hormuz on July 28.

(Additional reporting by Robert Gibbons in New York, Alex Lawler in Cape Town, and Alejandro Barbajosa in Singapore; Editing by David Gregorio)

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