Crude continued to climb upward Friday, settling at its highest point in 2 1/2 years. News of escalated violence in Libya and government unemployment reports propelled oil prices past the $104 mark.
As tensions heightened in Libya, April crude ended the week's trading session up 2.5 percent at $104.42 a barrel. Colonel Gadhafi's forces and protesters were reported to have been fighting on Friday over the city of Brega—a prominent oil refining town. Experts fear that the country's oil fields will remain at risk until there's a change in leadership. Since the beginning of the Libyan revolt on Feb. 15, NYMEX oil prices have increased by more than 23 percent.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department reported an increased of 192,000 jobs in the previous month. The official unemployment rate dipped to a level last seen in April 2009.
Oil futures fluctuated between $101.54 and $104.94 as apprehensive traders prepared for the weekend.
Additionally, gasoline futures surged to a 30-month high Friday on concern that the violence in North Africa and Middle East may threaten global oil shipments. According to the International Energy Agency, the turmoil in Libya affects oil production by nearly a million barrels a day. Gasoline settled at $3.05 a gallon, Friday's price ceiling. It bottomed out at $3.02.
Natural gas for April delivery also increased Friday, settling at $3.795 per thousand cubic feet. The natural gas price ranged from $3.73 to $3.83.
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