Crude oil futures were en route for their first weekly gain in nearly a month in New York as the U.S. Department of Labor released its report on Friday that the economy gained over 100,000 jobs in September.
On Thursday, European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet announced the ECB would extend a bond purchase program to protect the region from being exposed to Greece’s sovereign debt worries. Along with this, crude oil stockpiles dropped last week to their lowest levels since the beginning of the year according to the U.S. Energy Department.
Jeremy Friesen, a commodity strategist at Societe Generale SA in Hong Kong told Bloomberg on Friday, “If we get a good point on the jobs number, we could get a bit of a rally in oil here. We expect it to be a positive surprise versus consensus, and that should give some life to oil.” Indeed, the jobs report was positive with a six-digit bump in new jobs. However, the nation’s unemployment rate remains at 9.1 percent.
Crude oil futures for November delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange were up 10 cents to $82.69 per barrel during early trading on Friday and finished the day at $82.98. Brent oil futures for November were at $105.56 per barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange.
European Concerns and OPEC Output
Oil prices had dropped significantly since mid-September on fears that the European debt crisis could spread to countries such as Portugal, France and others and result in an overall decrease in demand for commodities. According to a SocGen report, crude oil prices have yet to bottom out due to the damage to consumer and business confidence caused by the current European situation.
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, is expected to export approximately 22.72 million barrels per day over four weeks ending on October 22, which Is only a slight change from the 22.74 million barrels per day that were exported in the month ending September 24. Crude oil shipments generally rise in anticipation for winter fuel demands in the northern hemisphere.
Crude oil also rose on hopes that output from the country of Libya may begin more quickly than previously anticipated. Recent fighting in Libya has decreased the output of light sweet crude (defined as low-density crude oil with low sulfur content). Libya’s production dropped to around 45,000 barrels per day in the month of August according to a recent Bloomberg article which put the September export number for the African country at around 100,000 barrels.
Higher Prices at the Pump
An increase in crude oil futures could mark an end to a short-lived reprieve for consumers at the gas pumps. The national average for a gallon of unleaded gasoline is currently around $3.40 and could rise in upcoming weeks as the holiday season approaches. While many consumers support lower gasoline prices, experts argue that lower consumer prices will not help boost a struggling U.S. economy that some fear is close to a double-dip recession.
The country’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate has done little to increase consumer confidence in recent months, as many Americans struggle to find new jobs. According to a recent report by the United States Census Bureau, more citizens are now considered to be living in poverty and the average household income for a family of four has dropped below $50,000 for the first time in a decade.
Market analysts and investors will monitor the price of crude oil and other commodities in coming weeks to see whether anticipation for winter fuel demands will result in a spike in prices. In late April, the price per barrel rose to over $113 while current prices represent the lowest so far in 2011.