Oil prices hit new record above $106 on interest rate, dollar expectations

New York: Oil prices jumped to a new record above $106 on Friday but extended their recent pattern of choppy trading after a weak jobs report convinced many traders that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate-cutting campaign will continue. Employers cut 63,000 jobs in February, the biggest drop in five years, the Labor Department said Friday. Investors can react to such news in one of two ways: by selling on the prospect that the economy, and demand for oil, is cooling, or by buying on a conviction that bad economic data makes it more likely the Fed will cut rates. On Friday, investors engaged in a little of both, sending oil prices down more than a dollar at one moment, and propelling them to new records the next. “The higher the market goes, the more volatile it becomes,” said Darin Newsom, senior analyst at DTN in Omaha, Nebraska. “Does it mean that the rally is over? No.” Light, sweet crude for April delivery rose 46 cents to $105.93 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after setting a new trading record of $106.54. Lower interest rates tend to weaken the dollar, and many analysts believe the weak dollar is the reason why oil has set new inflation-adjusted records three times this week, and risen 23 per cent in less than a month. Crude futures offer a hedge against a falling dollar, and oil futures bought and sold in dollars are more attractive to foreign investors when the dollar is falling. On Friday, the dollar set a new low against the euro Friday before rising. But most investors believe that despite occasional rebounds, the dollar is likely to continue falling as the Fed continues to cut rates. AP