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Originally published Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 3:54 AM

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Oil hovers below $83 ahead of US key jobs report

Oil prices hovered below $83 a barrel Friday in Asia as investors look to a key U.S. jobs report later in the day for clues about the strength of the economic recovery.

Associated Press Writer

Local gasoline prices

In the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area, a gallon of regular gas costs $2.872. That compares with $2.830 a month ago and $1.952 a year ago, according to AAA.

SINGAPORE —

Oil prices hovered below $83 a barrel Friday in Asia as investors look to a key U.S. jobs report later in the day for clues about the strength of the economic recovery.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was down 17 cents to $82.49 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the contract fell 52 cents to settle at $82.66.

The Labor Department is scheduled to announce later on Friday the December unemployment rate and job creation figures - numbers traders will study closely for signs the economy is on surer footing heading into 2010.

Analysts expect job losses will shrink from the 11,000 lost in November, and some economists expect the economy to add jobs. The jobless rate fell to 10 percent in November from 10.2 percent in October.

Oil prices have come off slightly from 15-month highs above $83 a barrel earlier this week. Cold weather in parts of the U.S., Europe and Asia have drained supplies of crude products such as heating oil and spurred a 19 percent rally since mid-December.

In other Nymex trading in February contracts, heating oil was steady at $2.18 a gallon and gasoline held at $2.13 a gallon. Natural gas futures were up 2.7 cents at $5.83.

In London, Brent crude for February delivery fell 18 cents to $81.33 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

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