Oil hovers near $75 amid mixed US economic data

Oil hovers near $75 amid mixed US economic data

Singapore: Oil prices hovered near $75 a barrel Friday in Asia amid mixed US economic indicators suggesting the world’s largest consumer of crude remains mired in an uneven recovery.

Benchmark crude for November delivery was down 20 cents to $74.98 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 47 cents to settle at $75.18 on Thursday.

Initial claims for jobless aid rose by 12,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 465,000, the first increase in five weeks, the Labor Department said Thursday. Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes rose 7.6% in August from July, which was the worst month for sales in 15 years.

And the Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of leading economic indicators rose modestly in August.

The mixed figures suggests the US economy is not heading for a double-dip recession but neither is it rebounding strongly from last year’s contraction. Earlier this week, the Energy Department said crude inventory levels extended decades-long highs.

Oil prices are being buffeted by “the offsetting influences of bearish oil balances and supportive economic releases that have proven sufficiently favorable," Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report.

Investors will be watching closely the latest news on durable goods and new home sales later Friday for more clues about the strength of the US economy.

In other Nymex trading in October contracts, heating oil fell 0.57 cent to $2.106 a gallon and gasoline dropped 0.74 cent to $1.91 a gallon. Natural gas held at $4.018 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude fell 14 cents to $77.97 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.