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Energy prices climb as job losses slow

OIL prices edged slightly higher yesterday after the US government reported the fewest monthly job losses in a year.

Benchmark crude for October delivery rose 6 US cents to settle at US$68.02 a barrel in on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract Thursday slipped 9 US cents to settle at US$67.96.

The Labor Department said yesterday that the unemployment rate rose to 9.7 percent in August, the government said. With 216,000 jobs lost, unemployment has reached levels last seen in 1983. Yet that was less than July's revised 276,000 jobs.

Millions of Americans have lost jobs and fewer people are traveling because of unease about the economy.

"Not as many people working means they are not consuming energy," PFGBest analyst Phil Flynn said.

Oil prices initially slumped when the employment figures came out, but the dollar began to weaken later in the day, helping to push oil prices higher. Because crude is priced in the US currency, it essentially becomes cheaper when the dollar falls.

Oil prices are off about US$5 this week as the summer driving season concludes with the Labor Day weekend. Demand for gasoline typically weakens during the fall. At the same time, supplies remain ample.

Trading will be closed in the US on Monday for the holiday.

In other Nymex trading, gasoline for October delivery fell 1.65 US cents to settle at US$1.7763 a gallon, and heating oil fell 1.45 US cents to settle at US$1.7205 a gallon. Natural gas, after tumbling to new seven-year low earlier in the day, rose 22 US cents to settle at US$2.728 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude fell 30 US cents to settle at US$66.82.


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