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Oil Falls to One-Week High as Job Losses Exceed Forecast

Oil retreated from a one-week high in New York after more Americans filed claims for jobless benefits last week than analysts had forecast, undermining hopes that the economic recovery will buoy fuel consumption.

West Texas Intermediate erased a gain of as much as 0.7 percent. Jobless claims increased 13,000 in the week ended April 7 to 380,000, the highest since Jan. 28, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey called for 355,000 claims. The International Energy Agency and OPEC separately released reports which indicated global oil markets are adequately supplied.

The jobs report “does suggest momentum in labor market is slowing a bit,” said Sean Incremona, a senior economist with 4Cast Inc. in New York, who forecast 372,000 claims, the highest in the Bloomberg survey. “I wouldn’t, though, read one claims report and one payrolls report as suggesting that the trend of improvement has stalled.”

Crude for May delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange was 5 cents higher at $102.75 a barrel at 9:08 a.m. local time. It had advanced as much as 67 cents to $103.37, the highest price since April 5, in earlier electronic trading.

Brent oil for May settlement tumbled 64 cents to $119.54 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark contract’s premium to New York-traded West Texas Intermediate narrowed to $16.79 from $17.48 yesterday.

IEA, OPEC Reports

Oil markets are better-supplied as “sluggish” demand and OPEC output at more than a three-year peak eased inventory depletion, the Paris-based IEA said in its monthly Oil Market Report today. Global oil inventories may have increased by more than 1 million barrels in the first quarter.

“The cycle of repeatedly tightening fundamentals evident since 2009 has been broken for now,” said the IEA, which advises 28 nations on energy policy. “The earlier tide of remorseless market tightening looks to have turned.”

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said in its own monthly report, also published today, that “the oil market is well-supplied.”

“High prices cannot be justified by the current market fundamentals. Instead it is more the impact of geopolitical factors and a perceived shortage of oil, rather than evidence of any actual or impending shortfall, that is keeping prices high,” OPEC said.

Oil advanced earlier after a report yesterday from the Energy Department showed U.S. gasoline stockpiles dropped more than expected last week.

U.S. gasoline inventories fell 4.3 million barrels, the Energy Department said yesterday. Supplies were projected to drop 1.38 million barrels in a Bloomberg News survey. The decrease countered figures that showed imports and demand for the motor fuel fell.

-- Editors: Stephen Voss, John Buckley

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