Crude was on a
zigzag course all week, dropping Friday after the government's jobs report showed companies remain reluctant to hire
- damping prospects that a rebounding economy means more oil and gasoline demand.
Benchmark crude for July delivery lost $3.10 to settle at $71.51 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier in the session, it climbed as high as $75.42. It started the week at $73.97.
After declining all week, retail gasoline prices rose Friday for the first time in nearly a month. Prices at the pump rose a penny to a national average of $2.726 per gallon, according to AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Prices have fallen 2.3 cents in the past week and 19.3 cents in the past month. They are 15.4 cents above last year's level.
Friday's retail gas rise was due mostly to higher wholesale prices on the West Coast, said OPIS' Tom Kloza. He said the trend in June for the rest of the country is toward slightly lower prices. If prices drop below $2.695 per gallon nationally, they would be lower than the peak price around the beginning of summer last year.
Natural gas prices climbed as investors pulled their money from oil and put it on gas, said oil analyst and trader Stephen Schork. Prices got a boost from hot weather pushing up electricity production and from forecasts of an active hurricane season ahead.
Some utilities are using more natural gas instead of coal as tighter emissions standards loom. Hurricanes can disrupt natural gas production as offshore producers shut down to ride out storms.
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In addition, natural gas prices were helped by new rules for lower sulfur dioxide emissions from the Environmental Protection Agency. Coal-fired power plants and factories are the main source of that breathing irritant.
Natural gas rose 10.7 cents to settle at $4.797 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In other Nymex trading in July contracts, heating oil fell 8.14 cents to settle at $1.9577 a gallon, and gasoline dropped 8.59 cents to settle at $1.9953 a gallon.
In London, Brent crude lost $3.32 to settle at $72.09 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
Associated Press writers Pablo Gorondi in Budapest and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.
Press; By MARK WILLIAMS]
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