LONDON, June 5 – Oil prices steadied below 69 dollars on Friday as the market awaited key US jobs data which may indicate further signs of economic recovery and in turn a rebound for energy demand, analysts said.
New York\’s main futures contract, light sweet crude for delivery in July climbed two cents to 68.83 dollars a barrel after a brief rally above 69 dollars.
Brent North Sea crude for July delivery dipped three cents to 68.68 dollars a barrel in afternoon London trade.
"Focus in the markets is likely to remain on… the US employment report," said Sucden Financial Research analyst Brenda Sullivan.
Market players were awaiting the monthly US employment survey for May due on Friday which may suggest job losses in the world\’s biggest economy are beginning to taper off.
Most analysts expect employers to have cut 520,000 jobs, down from 539,000 in April. But the unemployment rate is still expected to have jumped to 9.2 percent, its highest since 1983.
Oil prices had meanwhile rebounded strongly on Thursday after US investment bank Goldman Sachs said crude futures could strike 85 dollars a barrel by the end of 2009.
"Crude\’s ability to completely deny… (Wednesday\’s) sharp sell off, strongly underscores the new found optimism in the energy complex," said ODL Securities oil analyst Marius Paun.
Also helping push prices higher was data showing new claims for jobless benefits in the United States fell for a third consecutive week, fuelling hopes recession gripping the world\’s biggest energy consuming nation may be easing.
Goldman Sachs said its bullish price forecast stemmed from a global economic recovery and energy shortage. Further ahead, Goldman predicted that prices could strike 95 dollars a barrel by the end of 2010.
After plunging from record highs above 147 dollars last July, oil prices touched multi-year lows in December, at one point nearing 32 dollars a barrel.
They have since clawed back ground, bouncing to seven-month highs this week as a struggling US currency makes dollar-priced crude cheaper for buyers holding stronger currencies, in turn stimulating demand and pushing up prices.
Prices briefly slumped on Wednesday, however, after a surprise jump in American crude reserves that indicated weaker-than-expected demand.
The US Department of Energy announced Wednesday that American crude oil inventories leapt 2.9 million barrels in the week ending May 29 to reach 366 million barrels. Most analysts had expected a 1.7-million-barrel drop.
The higher stocks were attributed to rebounding imports.