Oil steady above $68, awaits US jobs data

Oil steady above $68, awaits US jobs data

Singapore: Oil hovered above $68 a barrel on Friday, eyeing a US jobs report due later for some clarity on the economy of the world’s top energy user as it struggles to emerge from recession.

The US non-farm payrolls report for August is expected to show employers expected cut jobs by the least amount in a year.

By 7:55am, US crude for October delivery was up 14 cents at $68.10 a barrel, after settling at $67.96 on Thursday. London Brent crude rose 10 cents to $67.22 a barrel.

Even after three days of not much change, oil is set for a 6.3% fall this week, its biggest weekly decline in eight weeks.

“We’re seeing directionless trading today ahead of the US employment report," said Tony Nunan, risk manager at Tokyo-based Mitsubishi Corp.

“The big issue is that a lot of the economic indicators have shown improvement, except for the employment numbers, and high unemployment figures are bad for overall oil demand."

Data on Thursday offered a conflicted picture of the world’s largest economy.

The contraction in the US services sector eased last month, with a gauge of activity hitting its highest point in 11 months, but a separate US government report showed initial claims for state jobless benefits fell by 4,000 to 570,000 last week.

The Labour Department will release the August employment report at 6:00pm later. Economists polled by Reuters forecast 225,000 jobs were lost last month, compared with a loss of 247,000 jobs in July.

The unemployment rate is expected to be 9.5%, compared with a 9.4% rate in July.

There was little impetus from current or equity markets after Wall Street on Thursday snapped a four-day losing streak, with Japan’s Nikkei stock average 0.2% lower on Friday in cautious trade.

The US dollar was modestly firmer on the yen and euro early on Friday.