Oil price rises as jobless rate falls

NEW YORK (AP) — Oil prices hit a new 30-month high on Friday after the world's top two oil consumers, the U.S. and China, issued positive economic reports that could lead to increased demand.

The U.S. said its economy added 216,000 new jobs last month and the unemployment rate dropped to 8.8 percent, a two-year low. Adding jobs often pushes oil prices higher since it implies that more workers will join the daily commute and increase demand for oil and gasoline.

In China, the government reported growing demand for autos and machinery as its manufacturing sector regained momentum.

Benchmark crude for May delivery gained 84 cents at $107.56 per barrel in afternoon trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price rose as high as $107.93 per barrel earlier in the day. Oil hasn't been that high since September 2008.

In London, Brent crude added 55 cents at $117.75 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

A stronger dollar kept prices from soaring early in the session, but eased by afternoon. Oil is traded in dollars and a stronger dollar rises makes crude more expensive for investors holding other currencies.

"The jobs number looked so good," analyst and trader Jim Ritterbusch said. "Then everyone looked at the dollar" and wondered how it would affect demand in China and other emerging markets. China is the world's second largest oil consumer behind the U.S.

"It's a very nervous market environment right now," Ritterbusch said.

Meanwhile, gas pump prices rose by more than a penny on Friday to a national average of $3.619 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Gasoline prices are at the highest levels ever for this time of year. They've soared 23.2 cents in the last month and 81.6 cents since a year ago.

In other Nymex Trading, heating oil for April delivery gained a penny at $3.1177 per gallon and the gasoline contract for April added 2 cents at $3.1321 per gallon. Natural gas for May delivery lost 6 cents at $4.327 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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