Oil rises to above $108 as US jobs market improves

Oil rises to above $108 as US jobs market improves

Singapore: Oil prices jumped to fresh 30-month highs above $108 a barrel Monday in Asia as signs of a recovering US jobs market bolstered investor optimism that global crude demand will strengthen.

Benchmark crude for April delivery was up 53 cents at $108.47 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract rose $1.22 to settle at $107.94 on Friday. In London, Brent crude for April delivery was up 75 cents to $119.31 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange. The US said on Friday its economy added 216,000 new jobs last month and the unemployment rate dropped to 8.8% boosting trader confidence that more workers will help fuel consumer spending.

Investors are also closely watching Libya, where a standoff is developing as forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi control most of the western half of the Opec nation while rebels have seized most of the eastern coast.

On Sunday, a Gadhafi envoy told Greece’s prime minister that the Libyan leader was seeking a solution to his country’s crisis two weeks after his government’s attacks to put down a rebellion drew international airstrikes. Some analysts say oil prices — which have jumped about 29% since 15 February - will likely begin to fall unless the US announces a major new program to provide cheap money or violent protests spread in the Middle East and North Africa.

“For prices to continue their ascent, a new event or exacerbation of existing events will be necessary," said Richard Soultanian of NUS Consulting. “Should this come to pass, we believe prices will spike." In other Nymex trading in April contracts, heating oil rose 1.5 cents to $3.15 a gallon and gasoline added 1.6 cents to $3.17 a gallon. Natural gas futures were down 4.8 cents at $4.31 per 1,000 cubic feet.