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U.S. Jobs Data Propels Crude Oil Above $80 a Barrel

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Oil Market Summary for 03/01/2010 to 03/05/2010

Jobs data indicating that U.S. economic recovery might be picking up steam finally pushed crude oil futures decisively over the stubborn $80 a barrel threshold. Nymex's benchmark West Texas Intermediate settled Friday at $81.50 a barrel, a seven-week high, after topping $82 in intraday trading.

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An unchanged unemployment rate of 9.7% and a smaller-than-expected drop in payrolls propelled both stocks and commodities higher on Friday. Earlier in the week, industry job data also came out better than expected, pushing crude just above the $80 a barrel mark.

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Any improvement in the labor market would translate into more commuter driving, more vacation driving this summer and generally greater energy demand, analysts said.

The jobs figures trumped other data, such as increases in inventories, that normally dampen oil prices. Oil inventories rose by 4 million barrels in the week, well ahead of consensus forecasts for a gain of only 1 million barrels.

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Remarks by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the opening of the National People's Congress on Friday expressing continued support for the economy also pushed prices higher, analysts said. Wen said the economy was on track to grow 8% this year. Recent efforts by Chinese authorities to curb bank lending have led to uncertainty about Chinese growth prospects.

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