Commodity Corner: Hopes for Jobless Rate Decline Buoy Oil

Oil traders' general optimism about the federal government's pending report on May U.S. unemployment helped to boost to crude oil prices Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Labor on Friday is set to release its report on the May employment situation. A decrease in unemployment would reverse the direction the figure took a month ago, when April non-farm payroll employment rose by 290,000 and lifted the country's jobless rate to 9.9%. The July oil futures contract rose 28 cents Wednesday to settle at $72.86. Oil traded from a low of $71.68 to a high of $73.93.

A MasterCard, Inc. report indicating a 3.7% increase in demand at the pump over the Memorial Day holiday propelled the price of a gallon of gasoline to $2.04 Wednesday. According to the report, the last time demand increased to that extent was August 2007. Wednesday's six-cent day-on-day jump in the settlement price followed intraday trading ranging from a high of $2.04 to a low of $1.97.

The July futures contract for natural gas rose 17 cents to $4.42 per thousand cubic feet. Natural gas traded from $4.22 to $4.41.