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Oil wavers around US$60 as consumers scale back

OIL prices wavered around US$60 per barrel yesterday with new consumer and employment data casting a pall over energy markets, but still rose slightly at the close for the first time in more than a week.

Benchmark crude for August delivery rose 27 cents to settle at US$60.41 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Still, crude prices in intraday trading fell below US$60 for the first time since May.

Consumers fearful of job cuts, or those who lost jobs, are spending less, which has dragged down everything from retail to gasoline sales.

America's retailers posted tepid sales figures yesterday, showing consumers put off purchases of clothes and other goods last month.

The Labor Department said the number of unemployed Americans filing continuing claims jumped last week, though the number of newly laid off workers filing their first claim has slumped.

The Labor Department said last week that employers cut 467,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate rose to 9.5 percent, the highest in 25 years.

That has helped push inventories of gasoline higher, the Department of Energy reported this week, and on yesterday, the government said natural gas stores continued to rise as well.

"That's not a good sign," said Clarence Chu, a trader at Hudson Capital Energy. "It shows demand for gasoline hasn't picked up like it normally does this time of year."

In other Nymex trading, heating oil fell less than a penny to settle at US$1.5344 a gallon, but gasoline for August delivery rose 3.05 cents to settle at US$1.6638 a gallon. Natural gas for August delivery rose 5.5 cents to settle at US$3.408 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent prices rose 67 cents to settle at US$61.10 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.


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