Oil prices fell on Friday after a weaker than expected U.S. jobs report indicated a patchy economic recovery that could mean slower fuel demand during a resurgent pandemic.
Losses were capped by concerns that U.S. supply would remain limited in the wake of Hurricane Ida, which cut production from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
Brent crude futures settled lower by 42 cents, or 0.58%, at $72.61 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 70 cents or 1%, at $69.29.
Both benchmark oil contracts were largely steady for the week, with U.S. crude up 0.80%.
“Prices slipped on the employment report, which was clearly impacted by the Delta variant,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital in New York. “This was a reality check that the coronavirus is still impacting demand,” he added.
Non-farm payrolls missed expectations with an increase of 235,000 jobs amid a softening in demand for services and persistent worker shortages as COVID-19 infections soared. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast non-farm payrolls would increase by 728,000 jobs.
Meanwhile oil and gas production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico remained largely halted in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, with 1.7 million barrels, or 93%, of daily crude output suspended, according to offshore regulator the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
“I would expect production to come back online in the course of the next week, versus refineries coming back online over the next two weeks,” said Bob Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho in New York. The lag in refinery restarts could cause an uptick in crude supplies, weighing on the market.
Some analysts see room for further price gains after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, stuck to a plan to add 400,000 barrels per day (bpd) to the market over the next few months.
The United States welcomed the move and pledged to press the exporter club to do more to support economic recovery by unleashing production.