Oil tests $103 a barrel

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    By Ben Rooney, staff reporterMarch 4, 2011: 7:03 AM ET

    NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Oil prices rose near the top of a recent trading range Friday, hitting a high above $103 a barrel, as the turmoil in Libya showed no sign of abating.

    The benchmark U.S. oil contract, West Texas Intermediate, was up 62 cents to $102.53 a barrel for April delivery in electronic trading. Earlier, the contract rose to $103.03 a barrel.

    Brent crude, the main oil contract in Europe, climbed $1.33 to $116.12 a barrel.

    Oil prices eased off 2-1/2 year highs Thursday following reports that Venezuela could mediate the crisis in Libya, where fighting between rebels and forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi continued to rage Friday.

    But the advance resumed early Friday as traders await a key report on the U.S. job market and questions were raised about Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez’s ability to calm the unrest in Libya.

    “We are hearing rumors that Hugo Chavez will broker peace and bring stability to Libya… let’s just say we’re skeptical,” said Stephen Schork, publisher of the energy industry newsletter The Schork Report.

    Trading in the oil market has been volatile in recent weeks, as investors remain worried about the political stability of other key oil producing nations in North Africa and the Middle East.

    Saudi Arabia and other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have pledged to increase production to make up for any lost oil due to unrest in Libya.

    Meanwhile, investors will also focus on the the U.S. job market when the Labor Department releases its February payrolls report later Friday.

    Twenty-five economists surveyed by CNNMoney are predicting the economy added 190,000 jobs in February. In January, only 36,000 jobs were added to payrolls, so the expectation is a large improvement over last month.

    Economists also expect the unemployment rate will rise to 9.2%. Last month, unemployment dropped to 9.0% unexpectedly. If that happens, it could be a sign that more discouraged workers are returning to the labor force. To top of page


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