Commodity Corner: Oil Ends the Week Lower

Crude oil for February delivery declined Friday on underwhelming jobs numbers and a stronger dollar.

Front-month crude settled at $88.03 a barrel, a 35-cent decline from Thursday. The U.S. Department of Labor announced that nonfarm payroll employment rose by 103,000 last month, well below what economic experts had anticipated. The agency also reported that the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 9.4 percent, but there has been speculation that more people receiving jobless benefits have simply acknowledged that they are not actively seeking work.

Also weighing on oil was a stronger dollar, which makes the commodity a less attractive value to those holding other currencies. The euro fell 0.5 percent against the greenback Friday.

Oil peaked at $89.48 and bottomed out at $87.25 Friday. Compared to Monday's settlement price, oil is down 3.8 percent for the week.

Experiencing an even more dramatic first week of 2011 was natural gas, which is down 4.9% for the period. February natural gas lost a penny Friday to settle at $4.42 per thousand cubic feet, below Monday's $4.65 settlement price. A warming trend expected later this month, along with the ongoing matter of high gas inventories, contributed to the decline for the week.

Natural gas traded within a range from $4.43 to $4.45 Friday.

The price of a gallon of gasoline also fell by a penny Friday, ending the day at $2.41. February gasoline fluctuated from $2.39 to $2.46, and it is down 0.8 percent for the week.