Oil settles down on US jobs data, steepest weekly loss in 3 months


By Nicole Jao

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Oil prices settled lower on Friday, and posted their steepest weekly loss in three months as investors weighed weak U.S. jobs data and possible timing of a Federal Reserve interest rate cut.

futures for July settled 71 cents lower, or 0.85%, to $82.96 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for June fell 84 cents, or 1.06%, to $78.11 a barrel.

Investors were concerned that higher-for-longer borrowing costs would curb economic growth in the U.S., the world’s leading oil consumer, after the Federal Reserve decided this week to hold interest rates steady.

For the week, Brent declined more than 7%, while WTI fell 6.8%.

U.S. job growth slowed more than expected in April and the annual wage gain cooled, data showed on Friday, prompting traders to raise bets that the U.S. central bank will deliver its first interest rate cut this year in September.

“The economy is slowing a little bit,” said Tim Snyder, economist at Matador Economics. “But (the data) gives a path forward for the Fed to have at least one rate cut this year,” he said.

The Fed held rates steady this week and flagged high inflation readings that could delay rate cuts. Higher rates typically weigh on the economy and can reduce oil demand.

The market is repricing the expected timing of possible rate cuts after the release of softer-than-expected monthly jobs data, said Giovanni Staunovo, an analyst at UBS.

U.S. energy companies this week cut the number of oil and rigs operating for a second week in a row, to the lowest since January 2022, Baker Hughes said in its closely followed report on Friday.

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The oil and gas rig count, an early indicator of future output, fell by eight to 605 in the week to May 3, in the biggest weekly decline since September 2023. The number of oil rigs fell seven to 499 this week, in the biggest weekly drop since November 2023. [RIG/U]

Geopolitical risk premiums due to the Israel-Hamas war have faded as the two sides consider a temporary ceasefire and hold talks with international mediators.

Further ahead, the next meeting of OPEC+ oil producers – members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia – is set for June 1.

Three sources from the OPEC+ group said it could extend its voluntary oil output cuts beyond June if oil demand does not increase.

Money managers cut their net long futures and options positions in the week to April 30, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) said.