US oil settles up 45 cents, at $59.39 a barrel

U.S. oil prices settled higher after oilfield services firm Baker Hughes reported that the U.S. oil rig count fell for the 22nd consecutive week.

The number of rigs drilling for crude in U.S. oilfields fell by 11 in the past week, bringing the total to 668 rigs, compared with 1,528 at the same time last year.

U.S. crude closed up 45 cents, at $59.39 a barrel, supported by job additions in the United States and the formation of the first named storm in the Atlantic ahead of the official start of the hurricane season.

Brent, on the other hand, closed down 15 cents, at $65.39 a barrel after hitting a session high of $66.01.

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Supportive, especially to U.S. crude, was news that nonfarm payrolls increased 223,000 in the United States in April, even though March payrolls were revised lower to just 85,000, the least since June 2012.

"The report should prove supportive of crude oil prices and produce strong gasoline demand as employees drive to the workplaces," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.

Ana, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season which traditionally begins June 1, had formed off the coast of South Carolina. While it posed no immediate threat to U.S. energy infrastructure, the storm heralded the approach of hurricane season, brokers said.

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Friday's data showing China's crude oil imports hit a record high in April was supportive, though traders cautioned that low prices encouraged stockpiling and pointed to plunging coal and copper imports as signs of slowed economic growth.

Government data showing U.S. crude stocks fell last week helped spark Wednesday's rally, but the report also showed gasoline and distillate stockpiles rose.

"Though the data showed U.S. crude inventories fell last week, the products inventories were up, so it looks like the crude is just being turned into products," said Dominick Chirichella, senior partner at the Energy Management Institute in New York.

Crude prices tumbled on Thursday as a resurgent dollar helped pressure dollar-denominated oil.