PAMELA SAMPSON, AP Business Writer
BANGKOK (AP) — The price of oil dipped slightly Friday ahead of the release of a key U.S. employment report.
Benchmark oil for October delivery was down 3 cents at $108.34 per barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $1.14 to close at $108.37 on Thursday.
Traders were refraining from big moves before the U.S. Labor Department releases employment data for August. Many investors believe that strong growth will ensure that the Federal Reserve will start to reduce, or “taper,” its massive bond-buying program later this month.
The U.S. central bank is buying $85 billion in bonds a month to keep long-term interest rates low and stimulate the economy. Fed stimulus has helped drive a bull market in stocks that has lasted more than four years.
Brent, the benchmark for international crudes, fell 5 cents to $115.21 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Brent has risen sharply recently due to fears of a U.S. intervention in Syria, even if the scale of the attack is now expected to be low. President Barack Obama continued to press skeptical U.S. lawmakers to give him the authority to use military force. Obama won little backing at an economic summit this week in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Francis Lun, chief economist at GE Oriental Financial Group in Hong Kong, said the situation in Syria led to recent rises in oil prices but he suggested that its overall effect on markets would not be profound.
“I think Syria will be a limited regional war,” he said.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.4 cent to $2.832 per gallon.
— Natural gas fell 2.2 cents to $3.553 per 1,000 cubic feet.
— Heating oil fell 0.7 cents at $3.133 per gallon.