By Barani Krishnan
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Crude oil prices ended little changed on Thursday as the first weekly gain in the U.S. rig count this year pared earlier gains.
Pulling crude futures off highs was the latest data on the U.S. oil rig count from Baker Hughes. The firm said the number of rigs drilling for oil rose by 12 this week, the first rise since December. [RIG/U]
Oil was lifted early when tame U.S. jobs & economic data signalled the Federal Reserve might be less hasty to raise interest rates & as a surge in gasoline futures drove expectations for more crude demand.
But with the Greek debt crisis unresolved & Iran nuclear talks ongoing, coupled with Friday's Fourth of July holiday making for a longer-than-usual weekend, some caution prevailed, limiting the rally.
"The momentum for crude is being washed out by the rig count number showing the first rise this year, after the weaker-than-expected jobs report had pushed crude up on the expectation that maybe the Federal Reserve would delay raising interest rates," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
The dollar slipped against the euro after U.S. jobs growth slowed in June & factory orders fell in May, tempering expectations for a September interest rate hike. A softer dollar makes oil, denominated in the greenback, more affordable to users of the euro. [FRX/]
Brent crude rose 6 cents to settle at $62.07 a barrel, after trading from $61.90 to $63.20. Prices turned lower in post-settlement trading. Brent fell 2.5 percent on Wednesday.
U.S. crude dipped 3 cents to settle at $56.93, trading from $56.65 to $57.95. It tumbled 4 percent in the previous session, the most since April, after a surprise inventory build last week. [EIA/S]
RBOB gasoline futures settled 1.3 percent higher ahead of expected holiday demand in the United States. Ultra-low sulfur diesel managed a slight gain at settlement, yet turned lower in post-settlement trading.
Refining margins, or cracks, for both gasoline & diesel rose too, pulling along crude prices on expectations of more U.S. summer driving demand.
"RBOB is very strong this morning. Brent & WTI are going for the ride," said Scott Shelton, a commodities specialist in Durham, North Carolina, for broker ICAP.
(Additional reporting by Robert Gibbons & Catherine Ngai in New York, Karolin Schaps in London & Henning Gloystein in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy & Lisa Shumaker)