Oil hangs near $101 a barrel ahead of closely-watched report on US hiring

The price of oil hovered near $101 a barrel Friday as markets awaited a report on U.S. hiring.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was down 24 cents at $101 a barrel at midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Nymex floor trading was closed Thursday for the Independence Day holiday.

On Wednesday, the contract gained $1.64 to $101.24, its highest close since early May last year, propelled by political unrest in Egypt and a sharp drop in U.S. oil supplies that could signal stronger demand.

The U.S. jobs report could be crucial to whether oil continues to rise or cedes recent gains as it will provide insight into the strength of the recovery in the world's No. 1 economy and a major crude consumer. A survey of analysts by FactSet forecasts that 178,000 new jobs were created in June.

Brent crude, which is used to set prices for oils used by many U.S. refineries, was down 6 cents to $105.48 on the ICE exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline was up 0.2 cent to $2.841 per gallon.

— Natural gas fell 1.4 cents to $3.676 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil was almost unchanged at $2.951 a gallon.