By Peter Nurse
Investing.com -- Crude oil prices edged higher Friday, continuing the recent rally amid growing expectations of an improving fuel demand outlook, particularly by the U.S., the world’s largest consumer.
By 9:45 AM ET (1345 GMT), U.S. crude was up 1.2% at $69.60 a barrel, after settling the previous session at its highest level since October 2018. Brent was up 0.9% at $72.05, climbing above $72 for the first time since April 2019.
For the week, Brent is on track for a gain of 3.4% and U.S. crude is heading for a 5% rise. It is the second week of gains for both contracts.
U.S. Gasoline RBOB Futures were up 0.8% at $2.2195 a gallon.
Helping the tone Friday was the latest U.S. nonfarm payrolls release, which showed that job growth accelerated in May, signaling firms are making some progress filling a record number of openings as the economy powers up.
Payrolls increased by 559,000 last month after a revised 278,000 gain in April, according to a Labor Department report Friday.
While this figure was a touch below the 650,000 expected, it still indicates robust growth while not exerting excessive pressure on the Federal Reserve to rein in its ultra-easy monetary policies.
U.S. crude stockpiles fell more than expected on Thursday in another bullish sign for the market, with data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showing a draw of just over 5 million barrels last week, bigger than the expected 2.4-million-barrel draw.
Earlier this week, both the OPEC+, a group consisting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other top producers, including Russia, and the International Energy Agency have offered up constructive outlooks for the second half of the year as the global economy recovers from the pandemic.
Another factor buoying the market was a slowdown in talks between the United States and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program, ruling out an immediate increase in supply from the Persian Gulf state.
Next week sees a number of important data releases, including OPEC’s monthly market report on Thursday and the IEA’s monthly oil market report.
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