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Oil prices Higher in Asian Trade

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Posted by on Friday, March 23, 2012, 11:25
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Oil prices rose in Asian trade Thursday on data showing an improvement in US employment numbers as concerns over geopolitical tensions in the Middle East lingered.

Oil prices
Oil prices

New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in May, gained 33 cents to $105.68 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for May settlement was up 12 cents at $123.26.

“Oil has gone higher, supported by economic optimism in the United States and also concern about supply from Iran,” said Ken Hasegawa, energy desk manager at Newedge brokerage in Japan.

US government data released on Thursday showed that claims for unemployment benefits fell to a fresh four-year low last week, pointing towards a recovery in the country’s depressed labour market.

The US Labor Department said 348,000 initial jobless claims were filed in the week ending March 17, down from a revised 353,000 in the previous week.

Earlier this month it reported solid job creation for the third consecutive month in February, although the 8.3 percent unemployment rate was unchanged from January as more people sought jobs in the world’s biggest economy.

The standoff between the West and crude producer Iran continues to be a key factor affecting oil prices, analysts said.

The Islamic republic has threatened to shut the strategic Strait of Hormuz — a conduit for a fifth of the world’s oil supply — if it faces additional economic sanctions from the West for its controversial nuclear programme.

Much of the international community believes that Iran’s nuclear programme is geared towards obtaining an atomic weapon but Tehran denies the charges, saying it is for civil power generation and medical purposes only.

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