Oil near $98 as US economy shows improvement

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Kuala Lumpur - The price of oil inched toward $98 a barrel Monday after stronger US hiring suggested demand for crude could increase.

Benchmark US crude for January delivery was up 6 cents at $97.71 a barrel at midafternoon Kuala Lumpur time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract closed up 27 cents at $97.65 on Friday.

US data showed strong signs of economic recovery.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 7 percent in November after employers added 203,000 jobs last month, more than expected.

Earlier data showed the US economy grew at a 3.6 percent annualised rate in July through September, the fastest since early 2012.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was down 2 cents at $111.59 a barrel on the ICE exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

- Wholesale gasoline rose 0.7 cent to $2.734 a gallon.

- Heating oil added 0.3 cent to $3.06 a gallon.

- Natural gas gained 6 cents to $4.174 per 1,000 cubic feet. - Sapa-AP

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