Crude oil finished modestly lower on Friday but climbed off its lows of the session. Oil saw weakness after another dismal employment report fueled concerns over energy demand.
Light sweet crude oil for May delivery finished at $52.46 per barrel, down 18 cents for the day. Prices touched as low as $51.02 earlier in the day.
A Labor Department report showed that non-farm payroll employment fell by 663,000 jobs in March following an unrevised decrease of 651,000 jobs in February. The drop in jobs came roughly in line with economists' expectations of a decrease of 658,000 levels.
With the continued decrease in jobs, the unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March from 8.1 percent in the previous month, in line with expectations. With the increase, the unemployment rate rose to its highest level since November of 1983.
Later in the morning, the Institute for Supply Management said its non-manufacturing index fell to 40.8 in March from 41.6 in February, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in the service sector. The decrease came as a surprise to economists, who had expected the index to edge up to 42.0.
At the pump, AAA reported a regular gallon of gasoline averaged $2.041 in the U.S. This is higher than the month-ago mark of $1.933 but well-below the year-ago level of $3.289.
Crude oil had rallied $4.25 on Thursday amid improved demand prospects as hopes the G20 summit will help pull the world out of the economic crisis.
Wednesday, crude dropped $1.27 as Energy Information Administration data revealed a build in both crude oil and gasoline stockpiles. Prices touched as low as $47.26 a day after touching as high as $50.
U.S. commercial crude oil inventories increased 2.8 million barrels from the previous week. Experts were looking for a build of about 3 million barrels. Total motor gasoline inventories increased 2.2 million barrels last week. A drop of about 1.5 million barrels was expected.
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