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Fri 2 Nov 2012 10:19 AM

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Oil price slips below $108 as US jobs data looms

Investors remain sceptical about a sustained improvement in fragile global economy

Oil price slips below $108 as US jobs data looms

Brent crude slipped below $108 a barrel on Friday as investors look ahead to key jobs data from the United States for more signs of economic recovery, which would boost fuel demand.

Data from the United States and China this week pointed to some stabilisation in the global recovery trend, but investors remained sceptical about a sustained improvement in the fragile economy.

Brent crude for December had edged down 22 cents to $107.95 a barrel by 8.29am UAE time, while US crude for December was down 25 cents at $86.84.

"Everyone is waiting for the jobs data tonight," said Ken Hasegawa, a commodity sales manager at Newedge Japan.

"The global economy is looking better than before, but there is still a lot of uncertainty in Europe and the US."

Brent could rise to about $109.50 a barrel if the jobs data released later on Friday turns out better than expected, Hasegawa said. But weaker-than-expected data could push Brent below $107, he said.

In the United States, consumer confidence improved sharply while companies added jobs in October at the fastest pace in eight months, a sign of modest healing in the labour market.

Factory activity at Asia's large economies started to pick up steam in October after a year of slower growth, surveys showed on Thursday, while US manufacturing showed modest improvement.

Front-month Brent is set to close lower for the third straight week as supply concerns in the Middle East and the North Sea eased.

The North Sea Buzzard oilfield could have restarted on Thursday, adding supplies to the most important of the North Sea crudes that underpin the Brent oil benchmark. Brent's premium to West Texas Intermediate crude has narrowed to about $21 a barrel.

Yet US crude futures are set to post their first weekly rise in three weeks, supported by an unexpected drop in crude inventories, positive economic data and as most refineries in the East Coast resumed operations after storm Sandy.

The US East Coast is still struggling to recover from the storm. Logistical problems continued to roil New York harbour on Thursday, threatening widespread delays in fuel deliveries off the New York Mercantile Exchange's futures contracts.

Crude inventories fell unexpectedly last week as imports dropped sharply, while oil product inventories were mixed as refinery utilisation rose, government data showed on Thursday.

Crude stocks dropped by 2.05 million barrels in the week to October 26, the government figures showed. That compared with analyst forecasts in a Reuters poll for a rise of 1.5 million barrels.

"The narrative of ample crude stocks and low refined product inventories remains intact despite the latest weekly changes to inventories," BNP analysts said in a note.

"We remain concerned that the existing low level of distillate stocks is set to continue into the winter."

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