Oil prices up on US jobs

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Singapore - Oil prices rose in Asian trade Friday ahead of the release of a key monthly US jobs report while traders keep an eye on the crisis in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for April delivery, rose 19 cents to $101.75 in mid-morning Asian trade.

Brent North Sea crude for April was up 18 cents at $108.28.

Investors are expecting the US non-farm payrolls report for February due out later Friday to mirror strong jobless claims figures released on Thursday.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits fell to a three-month low of 323,000 in the week ending March 1, from the prior week's revised reading of 349,000, the Labor Department said.

Analysts had expected the claims to fall to 338,000.

“It's all about payrolls today. It will be interesting to see if it will be another weather-restrained result, and more importantly, if the unemployment rate comes down towards the psychological 6.5 percent mark,” United Overseas Bank said in a commentary.

Mounting tensions over Russia's incursion into Ukraine's Crimean peninsula continue to provide strong support to oil prices, analysts said.

The ex-Soviet state is in danger of breaking apart after Crimea's parliament unanimously voted to join Russia, in a sharp escalation of the worst East-West security crisis since the Cold War.

Both Kiev's new Western-backed interim leaders and US President Barack Obama denounced the decision as illegal and illegitimate.

Washington has slapped visa bans on Russians and Ukrainians involved in the Crimean incursion, the latest series of moves by the US administration to punish Moscow, while the European Union has also imposed punitive measures including freezing visa and financial talks.

“The complications arising from Eastern Europe (are) likely to provide good support to crude oil due to fears over disruptions,” Tan Chee Tat, an investment analyst at Philip Futures in Singapore, said in a note. - Sapa-AFP


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