Oil prices rose to nearly $96 a barrel Friday in Asia, reversing earlier losses as traders awaited the release of a key U.S. jobs report.

Benchmark oil for October delivery was up 34 cents at $95.87 a barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 17 cents to settle at $95.53 on Thursday.

Crude was driven as high as $97.71 on Thursday by word that the European Central Bank would buy unlimited amounts of government bonds to help lower borrowing costs for euro nations that are struggling with debt.

Prices were also boosted by a drop in U.S. unemployment benefit applications and the release of an Energy Information Administration report that showed U.S. crude supplies dropping by more than expected last week. Hurricane Isaac interrupted deliveries of oil imports and refinery activity along the Gulf Coast.

The oil market was looking ahead to the release of U.S. jobs figures for August, to be released later Friday, to help gauge the health of the world's No. 1 economy.

Analysts forecast that the economy generated 135,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate remained at 8.3 percent, according to a survey by FactSet. That's below the 163,000 jobs gained in July, but an improvement from meager hiring in the spring.

In other energy futures trading, wholesale gasoline futures rose 2 cents to $3.006 per gallon. Heating oil was up less than 1 cent to $3.150 a gallon. Natural gas fell 3 cents to $2.751 per 1,000 cubic feet.


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