Oil mixed as US jobless claims weigh

2011-01-14 09:39

Singapore - Oil prices were mixed in afternoon Asian trade on Friday as investors digested the implications of a rise in US jobless claims and waited for more economic data from the world's biggest economy.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, was down 23 cents at $91.17 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for February was up 30c to $98.36.

Ong Yi Ling, an investment analyst with Phillip Futures in Singapore, said prices were under pressure from initial jobless claims figures in the United States that hit a 10-week high.

New US claims for unemployment benefits rose 35 000 last week over the previous week, the Labour Department reported.

New claims touched 445 000 in the week ending January 8, beating market expectations.

Ong said investors were also looking forward to US December retail sales. The health of the US economy is closely watched by the market because it is the world's biggest oil consumer.

"If the December retail sales figures are up, it might lead to optimism in the economy and rising oil prices," Ong said.