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WTI Little Changed After Rebounding From 0.7% Decline

West Texas Intermediate crude oil was little changed in early floor trading on the New York Mercantile after rebounding from a decline of 0.7 percent.

WTI for March delivery declined 11 cents to $97.73 a barrel at 9:04 a.m. The price ranged from $97.11 to $98.14. The volume of all futures traded was 21 percent more than the 100-day average.

Brent for March settlement rose 37 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $107.56 on the ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark crude was at a premium of $9.83 to WTI on the ICE exchange, compared with $9.35 yesterday.

WTI rebounded after the Labor Department reported payrolls in the U.S. rose less than projected in January as retailers cut back after the holidays and government hiring fell. The unemployment rate unexpectedly dropped to 6.6 percent to the lowest level since October 2008 even as more Americans entered the labor force.

In China, the HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics’ services Purchasing Managers’ Index slid to 50.7 percent, the lowest since August 2011, a report today showed. The nation’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to a six-month low of 50.5 in January as output and orders slowed, Feb. 1 data show. Numbers above 50 signal expansion.

Oil output in Libya ranged from 450,000 to 500,000 barrels a day, down from 600,000 barrels last week, according to Nuri Berruien, the chairman of National Oil Corp. Protesters demanding money “tampered” with a valve on a pipeline in the northwestern Zintan region, causing output to drop at the Sharara field further south, he said yesterday. Libya, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, holds Africa’s largest crude reserves.

Tampered Pipeline

Weather forecasters are gauging the possibility of a winter storm arriving this weekend in the U.S. Northeast, which is still clearing snow from two systems earlier this week. Distillate inventories, including heating oil and diesel, shrank for a fourth week in the seven days through Jan. 31, data from the Energy Information Administration show.

WTI will probably decline next week as U.S. refineries shut plants for maintenance, reducing crude demand and bolstering stockpiles, a Bloomberg survey shows. Nineteen of 37 analysts, or 51 percent, forecast futures will decrease through Feb. 14. Ten respondents estimated prices will climb, and eight said there will be little change.

Refineries operated at 86.1 percent of capacity in the week ended Jan. 31, according to the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm. That’s the lowest rate since October. Units are often idled at the start of the year after the heating season in November and December.

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