Oil prices steady as market weighs mixed U.S. jobs report

An oil pumpjack operates in Los Angeles on July 31, 2023.
Mario Tama | Getty Images

Crude oil futures were little changed on Friday as traders digested what a mixed U.S. jobs report may mean for the future course of interest rates.

The West Texas Intermediate contract for April fell 19 cents, or 0.24%, to $78.74 a barrel. The Brent contract for May dropped 22 cents, or 0.27%, to $82.74 a barrel.

The U.S. added 275,000 jobs in February, compared to 198,000 expected by economists surveyed by Dow Jones. But the unemployment rate rose to 3.9%.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told Congress on Thursday that the central bank is “not far” from cutting rates. Powell told the Senate Banking Committee that the Fed wants more confidence that inflation is moving sustainably at 2%.

“When we do get that confidence, and we’re not far from it, it’ll be appropriate to begin to dial back the level of restriction,” Powell said.

Lower interest rates typically stimulate economic growth, which supports crude oil demand.

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