Crude oil prices slipped to near $74 a barrel Monday in Asia as traders weighed whether growing Chinese demand can offset weak U.S. fuel consumption amid high unemployment. Benchmark oil for October delivery was down 25 cents at $74.35 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 42 cents to settle at $74.60 on Friday.
Most investors took heart after the Labor Department on Friday said private employers added 67,000 jobs in August, more than analysts expected. However, the jobless rate rose in August to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent in July, showing that unemployment remains high despite massive stimulus spending during the last year. Oil prices have been in a holding pattern around $75 for most of the past year as developed countries rebound from last year's recession but economic growth threatens to slow in the second half.
Traders are looking to China and other emerging economies to fuel demand for commodities in coming years. If China continues to grow at its current rate of about 9 percent a year until about 2030, its oil demand would equal all of today's global crude production, HSBC chief economist Stephen King said. "So the likelihood is over the next five to ten years, we'll see significantly higher oil prices," King said. "The China story is becoming more and more important."
In other Nymex trading in October contracts, heating oil fell 0.43 cent to $2.05 a gallon and gasoline dropped 0.33 cent to $1.916 a gallon. Natural gas for October delivery skidded 3.9 cents to $3.90 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude was down 6 cents at $76.61 on the ICE Futures exchange.
From The Associated Press - Singapore