US oil closes up 0.6 pct, at $45.41, after choppy session

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Crude prices were higher in choppy trading on Friday, with Brent on track to its largest weekly drop in six months, as strong U.S. jobs data and bargain hunting by investors pitted against seasonally weak consumption of oil.

The oil market initially rose about 1 percent or more after the U.S. economy posted the largest job gains in eight months in June and on worries about fresh militant attacks on Nigerian oil infrastructure. But the gains faded after concerns over supplies later returned.

"It's choppy and will likely stay so," said David Thompson, executive vice-president at Washington-based commodities broker Powerhouse. "It'll be a tug of war today between the very strong jobs numbers and the existing bearish oil market fundamentals."

The market also digested U.S. rig count data from Baker Hughes, which showed rigs rise by 10 this week to 351, posting their fifth straight weekly increase.

'Wiping out' oil headwinds

Brent crude futures were up 29 cents, or 0.6 percent, at $46.69 per barrel, after a session low at $46.15.

U.S. crude's West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures settled 27 cents higher, or 0.6 percent, at $45.41 a barrel.

Both benchmarks were down nearly 8 percent for the week - the largest weekly slide for Brent since January.

Crude futures remain some 75 percent above 12-year lows of $27 for Brent and $26 for WTI hit in the first quarter. But the market has gyrated since hitting above $50 as a glut of refined products replaced worries about crude oversupplies that caused a near two-year long tumble earlier.

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Futures hit two-month lows on Thursday, with WTI breaking below key support of $45.83 after weekly drawdowns in U.S crude looked inadequate to assuage investor concerns.

"I think we have strong support at $44 for WTI now. Some of the gloom nd doom on demand destruction for oil has gone away with the U.S. jobs numbers," said Phil Flynn, analyst at Chicago-based brokerage Price Futures Group.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the correct U.S. oil settlement.