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Energy prices edge higher after better-than-expected US jobs data

Highlights

US weekly unemployment claims lowest since March

US gasoline demand weakest since June

RBOB cracks test seven-week lows

New York — An overnight oil price rally extended in early morning trading Oct. 22 as demand concerns eased following better-than-expected US jobs data.

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At 1344 GMT, NYMEX December WTI was up 45 cents at $40.48/b and ICE December Brent was 45 cents higher at $42.18/b.

US weekly first time unemployment claims fell to 787,000 in the week ended Oct. 17, the Department of Labor data showed Oct. 22. The unemployment figure was the lowest since the week ended March 14, when pandemic lockdowns first began in earnest across much of the US.

NYMEX November RBOB was up 1.07 cents at $1.1510/gal and November ULSD was 46 points higher at $1.1445/gal.

The unemployment report offered a bullish counterpoint to a bearish US Energy Information Administration report on Oct. 21 showing US refined products demand moving sharply lower in the week ended Oct. 16.

Total refined products supplied -- EIA's proxy for demand -- slipped 1.36 million b/d at 18.11 million b/d, driven by lowered demand across all product categories, aside from propane.

Gasoline demand was especially weak, falling 290,000 b/d at 8.29 million b/d -- the lowest since the week ended June 12.

"The EIA report highlighted the fragile nature of the demand-side recovery," TD Securities analysts said in a note, "raising concerns amid a second wave sweeping across the globe and sparking localized lockdowns."

Gasoline cracks continued to weaken despite an upward trending energy complex. The front-month ICE New York Harbor RBOB crack against Brent fell to about $5.50/b in early US trading, on pace for the weakest close since Sept. 4.

"Assorted crack spreads, albeit they have been fluctuating in relatively narrow ranges lately just like outright prices, are considerably lower than the pre-pandemic levels," PVM analysts said in a note Oct. 22. "It is a clear indication that oil demand, despite recovering from the unprecedented slump in April and May, still has a long way to go to be relied on by bulls."