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Crude rose on Friday, trading at its highest level since November, lifted by a strong US monthly jobs report, which undermined bears who were expecting a slowdown in oil demand because of an economic crisis signaled earlier this month by the bond market.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI), which started 2019 at $45, jumped by 1.3% intraday to $62.91, the highest level since $63.10 in November, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Brent futures also climbed above the psychological $70 mark, gaining 1.1% intraday.
Oil, which was down early on Friday, rose after job creation in the US rebounded strongly in March, tempering views that demand for oil will slow in the months ahead because of fears of an economic downturn.
Data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed on Friday non-farm payrolls expanded by 196,000, compared with a market estimate for an increase of 175,000. The unemployment rate stood at 3.8%.
Oil prices have surged by more than 30% so far in 2019 as production cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC members led by Russia, which together have cut 1.2 million barrels per day since the beginning of this year, have helped stabilize the demand-supply balance.
The compliance rate for this joint cut has been uncharacteristically high, about 90%, and that’s partly involuntary because of political crises in oil-producing countries such as Venezuela and Libya, as well as the US sanctions on Iran, the third biggest oil producer in OPEC.
Oil prices are ending this week higher even as the Energy Infomation Administration reported Wednesday crude stockpiles surged by 7.2 million barrels over a week to March 29, which is in contrast with expectations for a drop of 425,000 barrels in a Reuters’ poll of analysts.
The rally in oil prices has been “impressive, and quick,” according to a report from the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “So quick, in fact, that our $65 year-end 2019 price target could be challenged soon,” John LaForge, the head of real asset strategy, wrote in the report.
LaForge, however, noted higher oil prices will drive extra US production in the coming months. He said the next short-term oil price may move may be down.
The number of oil rigs operating in the US increased for the first time in seven weeks, jumping by 15 to 831, according to data from energy services firm Baker Hughes (BHGE), which tracked the seven-day period ending April 4. The combined oil and gas rig count in the US rose by 19 to 1,025 as gas rigs increased by four to 194.
In Canada, the number of oil rigs in operation slumped by 13 to 22 over the same period, while the number of gas rigs was down by seven to 46. As a result, the North American total slid by one to 1,093 versus 1,114 a year ago, the data showed.
Later in the year, LaForge of Wells Fargo added, WTI futures “will make a run at $65 as geopolitical tensions heat up among oil-related countries.”