NYMEX-Crude ends down on profit taking, Libya plan

 * Venezuela says Libyan government accepts peace proposal
 * Arab League says Libyan peace plan under consideration
 * Libyan rebel leader says no interest in negotiating
 * Coming up: US Feb payrolls data, 8:30 a.m. EST Friday
 NEW YORK, March 3 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil futures prices
edged lower on Thursday after a Venezuelan proposal for
resolving Libya's crisis prompted traders to book profits
despite skepticism about whether such a plan would work.
 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's plan to negotiate a
solution to the rebellion in Libya met with little immediate
support. The chairman of the rebel National Libyan Council
entirely rejected any talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
while Arab League President Amr Moussa said it was merely
"under consideration." [ID:nLDE7222AG]
 Brent crude futures also fell amid the flurry of headlines
on the situation in Libya.
 FUNDAMENTALS
 * On the New York Mercantile Exchange, April crude (CLJ1: Quote, Profile, Research)
fell 32 cents, or 0.31 percent, to settle at $101.91 a barrel,
trading from $100.15 to $102.94.
 * Muammar Gaddafi struck at rebel control of a key Libyan
coastal road but received a warning he would be held to account
at The Hague for suspected crimes by his security forces.
[ID:nLDE72200E]
 * Saif al Islam, Gaddafi's son, said there was no need for
any foreign role in ending Libya's crisis when asked about a
mediation offer by Venezuela. [ID:nLDE7222F7]
 * France and Britain told Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
they would press for the imposition of a no-fly zone if attacks
against his country's citizens continued. [ID:nLDE7221SN]
 * Around 100 Saudi Shi'ites staged a protest in Saudi
Arabia's oil-producing Eastern Province, demanding the release
of prisoners they say are being held without trial, witnesses
said. [ID:nLDE72225M]
 * The United States can tap strategic oil reserves if need
be to keep soaring oil prices from derailing a global recovery,
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said. [ID:nN03270497]
 * The number of U.S. initial jobless claims hit the lowest
level in more than 2-1/2 years last week and service sector
hiring picked up in February. Another report confirmed business
productivity picked up in the fourth quarter. [ID:nN02222564]
 * Top U.S. retailers posted stronger-than-expected sales
gains for February. [ID:nN03203429]
 * China's leading refineries will cut crude oil throughput
in March to the lowest daily volume in a year, as heavy
maintenance, bulging fuel inventories and soaring crude costs
dampen operation levels. [ID:nL3E7E30JT]
 MARKETS NEWS
 * The euro rallied to a fresh four-month high against the
U.S. dollar after European Central Bank President Jean-Claude
Trichet cemented expectations of a near-term interest rate
rise. [USD/]
 * Investors betting on a big gain in U.S. nonfarm payrolls
pushed Wall Street to its best one-day rally in three months.
As oil paused from its recent climb, the stock market's focus
shifted to stronger-than-expected economic data a day before
the February U.S. employment report. [.N]
 * Copper ended up after hitting its highest level in two
weeks, supported by better-than-expected labor market data in
the United States and a retreat in the price of oil. [MET/L]
 UPCOMING DATA/EVENTS
 * U.S. nonfarm payrolls data released at 8:30 a.m. EST
(1330 GMT) on Friday are expected to have risen in February
after being held down by extreme winter weather in January.
Employment is expected to have increased by 185,000, which
would be the largest gain in almost a year.
 * Commodities Futures Trading Commission weekly positions
data is set for release at 3:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT) on Friday.
    SETTLE     NET    PCT     LOW    HIGH  CURRENT  DAY AGO
              CHNG   CHNG                      VOL      VOL
CLc1   101.91   -0.32  -0.3%  100.15  102.94  361,112  446,378
CLc2   103.09   -0.39  -0.4%  101.36  104.25  117,902  164,094
LCOc1  114.79   -1.56  -1.3%  113.09  116.90  207,250  208,292
RBc1   3.0262 -0.0033  -0.1%  2.9800  3.0300   30,456   47,497
RBc2   3.0329 -0.0053  -0.2%  2.9894  3.0370   17,708   24,132
HOc1   3.0493 -0.0084  -0.3%  3.0114  3.0673   35,233   53,656
HOc2   3.0588 -0.0104  -0.3%  3.0278  3.0744   13,336   20,505
TOTAL MARKET            VOLUME                 OPEN  INTEREST
          CURRENT    Mar 02   30D AVG     Mar 02  NET CHNG
CRUDE        709,942   942,468   927,890  1,574,388    -4,869
RBOB          71,301   114,442   119,024    280,226     2,162
HO            85,749   134,341   135,351    300,763    -1,552
 (Reporting by Robert Gibbons and Gene Ramos; Editing by David
Gregorio)