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Oil near US$98 a barrel as US economy shows improvement

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--The price of oil inched toward US$98 a barrel Monday after stronger U.S. hiring suggested demand for crude could increase.

Benchmark U.S. crude for January delivery was up 6 cents at US$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 US$97.65 on Friday.

U.S. 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 U.S. economy grew at a 3.6 percent annualized rate in July through September, the fastest since early 2012.

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

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline rose 0.7 cent to US$2.734 a gallon.

— Heating oil added 0.3 cent to US$3.06 a gallon.

— Natural gas gained 6 cents to US$4.174 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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