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Oil prices tumble amid pre-election jitters

Data show a relatively healthy labor sector in the United States days before Election Day.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
Jitters set in to drag crude oil prices lower, marking a definitive trend for the first week of November. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI
Jitters set in to drag crude oil prices lower, marking a definitive trend for the first week of November. File photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- Oil prices turned negative Friday as market jitters set in as the U.S. race for president tightens with just a few short days to go before Election Day.

Negative market sentiment is persisting through the first week of November, after crude oil prices spent most of October in rally mode. Oil staged a brief attempt at a rally early Thursday, but turned negative on lingering doubts over whether members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries can coordinate on a production ceiling proposed in September.

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Friday's open was marked by an attack in Nigeria on a crude oil export pipeline, through crude oil prices continued their steady retreat. A midday research note from brokerage firm PVM finds a bearish sentiment taking hold of the markets, though there isn't much new evidence to support the negativity.

The price for Brent crude oil was down 1.7 percent at the start of trading in New York to $45.57 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for oil, lost 1.3 percent from the previous close to open at $44.08 per barrel.

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Markets have been in retreat as investors move toward safe-haven assets like gold in the days leading up to the U.S. presidential election. Most Electoral College assessments show Democrat Hillary Clinton with an advantage, though investors are anxious about the narrowing lead against the politically untested Republican candidate, Donald Trump.

Russian media added to doubts about the OPEC production proposal when it published an interview with Sberbank CIB strategist Mikhail Sheibe saying coordination was possible, but likely meaningless when it came to actual numbers.

"It will probably be an agreement of intent to limit oil production with the list of permissible quotas exactly or nearly equal to production levels for the time being," he was quoted by news agency Tass as saying.

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In the U.S. economy, the Labor Department reported Friday that unemployment was little changed for October, with 161,000 new jobs coming from non-farm payrolls.

"In October, both the labor force participation rate, at 62.8 percent, and the employment-population ratio, at 59.7 percent, changed little," the report read. "These measures have shown little movement in recent months, although both are up over the year."

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By demographics, the Labor Department reported a drop in the unemployment rate for Hispanics, while most other sectors, including women, remained steady. Those that do have jobs, meanwhile, are getting paid more, with hourly earnings increasing by 10 cents to an average $25.92 per hour.

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