Michael Galvis: Oil Prices Slip Back Under $40 A Barrel.

LONDON (Reuters) — Oil slipped under $40 on Thursday as investors took in U.S. data showing a 26-year record high in the number of workers filing new unemployment benefit claims.

The U.S. Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment insurance benefits rose 35,000 to a seasonally adjusted 626,000 on the week ending Jan. 31, the highest since the week ending Oct. 30, 1982.

Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast 585,000 new claims.

U.S. light crude for March delivery fell 20 cents to $40.12 a barrel at 9:18 a.m. EST after briefly trading down at $39.80. London Brent crude for the same month gained 69 cents to trade at $44.84 a barrel.

U.S. Crude has been locked between $39 and $49 a barrel for the past two weeks.

“The number of jobless people keeps mounting and this will weigh again on the energy complex,” said Phil Flynn, analyst at Alaron Trading in Chicago.

“If the jobless ranks continue to rise, it will be difficult for OPEC to do much to keep oil prices from further falling.”

On Friday the Labor Department will issue the employment report for January, and analysts are expecting a drop of 525,000 payroll jobs.

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