Economy

Oil hangs above $94 on US jobs report, Iran talks

The price of oil remained near $94 a barrel Friday as markets digested a possible loosening of sanctions against Iran and encouraging data on U.S. employment.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for December delivery was up 6 cents at $94.26 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 60 cents on Thursday.

Negotiations in Geneva between major world powers and Iran on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program were seen heading toward a deal. U.S.-led sanctions have crippled Iran's oil exports and their resumption would come at a time of already abundant supplies.

"An Iran nuclear breakthrough could represent a wave of oil ready to hit the market," according to the Kilduff Report, research edited by Michael Fitzpatrick. "Some of the recent price decline has been attributable to this rally."

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said U.S. employers added 204,000 jobs in October, a surprisingly high figure considering the federal government was partially shut for 16 days last month. At the same time, the unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent in September, likely because furloughed federal workers were counted as unemployed.

A possible sign that demand for oil could increase came from China, where October trade data showed growth in overall imports accelerating. But overall, the backdrop of ample supplies and muted demand, which has driven a monthlong slide in the oil price, is expected to keep a lid on markets.

"More losses appear likely," the Kilduff Report noted. Brent crude, the international benchmark for oil, was up 14 cents at $103.60 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline added 1.16 cents to $2.5147 a gallon. — Heating oil was steady at $2.839 a gallon. — Natural gas advanced 3.3 cents to $3.552 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Christopher S. Rugaber in Washington contributed to this report.

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