The price of oil recovered some of its earlier losses on Friday after a report on the U.S. jobs market showed more workers were hired in October than analysts had expected, an encouraging sign for energy demand in the world's largest economy.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for December delivery was down 15 cents to $86.94 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The contract was even lower before the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy generated 171,000 jobs in October, higher than the 125,000 or so expected in the markets. The unemployment rate, which is based on a separate survey, rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent, but that was in line with predictions.
The figures point to a slow but steady recovery in the U.S. economy. Added to upbeat economic surveys this week on consumer confidence, the housing market and the manufacturing sector, the figures helped put a floor under commodity prices.
Crude oil prices were weighed down somewhat earlier on expectations that demand would likely be subdued in the aftermath of the massive storm that slammed into the U.S. East Coast earlier this week caused oil prices to sag on Friday.
"Sentiment on the oil market remains muted," said a report from Commerzbank in Frankfurt, adding that the Nymex contract had been boosted only temporarily from an unexpected decline in U.S. crude oil stocks.