Crude oil prices fell below $100 a barrel for the first time since February today after weaker-than-expected jobs data in the United States stoked concerns about demand for fuel in the world’s biggest economy, the Associated Press reported.
According to MarketWatch, crude for June delivery dropped $4.32, or 4.2 percent, to $98.21 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Losses for the week were hovering above six percent, MarketWatch said.
"Crude oil prices have dropped sharply today as fears of a global economic slowdown increased," CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson told Agence France-Presse.
Other factors also weighed on oil prices: OPEC Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri’s comments on Thursday that the 12-member organization was “working hard” to bring down the cost of oil; figures showing high US levels of crude inventories; and the ongoing European debt crisis.
“Many funds are still on the long side of crude oil, but the global economic recovery remains something a bit elusive,” Olivier Jakob at consultancy Petromatrix was quoted by the Financial Times as saying.
Data released by the Labor Department earlier today showed the US economy created 115,000 jobs in April, fewer than analysts had expected.
And while the unemployment rate dipped slightly, from 8.2 percent to 8.1 percent, UPI said that was mainly due to more the 522,000 people who gave up looking for work.
The disappointing figures also weighed on US equity markets. In afternoon trading, the Dow Jones Index was down 1.2 percent to 13,046.44 and the S&P was off 1.5 percent at 1,371.08, according to the New York Times.
After a run of positive economic data earlier in the year, recent figures suggest the US economic recovery could be faltering. The US economy slowed more than expected in the first quarter and April retail sales missed analysts’ forecasts.