Oil gains, boosted by strong U.S. jobs data

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Crude oil futures rose on Friday, buoyed by better than forecast U.S. jobs data that improved sentiment about the economic prospects of the world's largest oil consumer, while worries about supply also provided support.

Brent crude gained $1.40 cents to $107.30 per barrel by 9:06 a.m. EDT (1306 GMT). It was on track for its highest close in two weeks. U.S. oil rose $2.42 cents to $89.55.

A survey of U.S. employers showed 163,000 jobs were created last month, the most since February, the Labor Department said on Friday. The reading was higher than any forecast in a Reuters poll.

The jobless rate, however, rose slightly from 8.2 percent in June and analysts said that was likely to keep speculation of further monetary stimulus for the economy from the U.S. Federal Reserve intact.

Worries about tighter supply caused be maintenance in the North Sea, Tropical Storm Ernesto in the Caribbean Sea and increasing tension in the Middle East have also encouraged investors to buy into oil.

"Some bullish arguments have come together and induced the market higher," said Andy Sommer, analyst at EGL in Dietikon, Switzerland.

"However I would question whether there is much more upside left and I wouldn't be surprised to see Brent falling back towards around $100 per barrel next week."

The U.S. Congress passed a new package of sanctions against Iran that aims to punish banks, insurance companies and shippers that help Tehran sell its oil.

This builds on oil trade sanctions signed into law in December that prompted buyers in Japan, South Korea, India and other nations to slash their purchases of Iranian oil.

Maintenance work in the British sector of the North Sea will cut crude oil production in September.

The Brent contract is based on four North Sea crude oils --Brent, Forties, Oseberg and Ekofisk -- and export programs for September were expected to show a sharp drop.

Seaborne oil exports from OPEC, excluding Angola and Ecuador, will fall by 120,000 barrels per day in the four weeks to August 18, UK consultancy Oil Movements said.

IRAQ UNCERTAINTY

Adding to supply uncertainty, Iraq's semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan plans to halt oil exports on August 31 if the central government does not make all outstanding payments, the region's minister of natural resources said.

Middle East tension increased, with former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan quitting as international peace envoy for Syria, frustrated by "finger-pointing" at the United Nations, while the armed rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad becomes increasingly bloody.

Providing a bright spot, China's services sector expanded in July at a healthy clip, in contrast to a struggling manufacturing sector, although surveys released on Friday showed some signs of weakness in new orders and pressure from overcapacity.

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