North Sea oil edged up in early Asian trade on Friday as investors marked time ahead of key economic data from the world's biggest consumer of crude, the United States, which is expected to give more indications on whether its economy is turning away from a recession.
Benchmark Brent crude for October delivery was up 21 cents at $67.33 at around noon in Singapore in trading on the ICE Futures Exchange.
The other international benchmark, WTI for October, moved up 25 cents to $68.21 a barrel at the same time in Singapore in electronic trading on the NYMEX. That contract Thursday had revsersed 9 cents overnight to settle at $67.96.
Crude prices have been bobbing around the $68 a barrel mark over the past three sessions, with investors and traders alike seeking more pointers on the direction of the US economy.
Later in the day, the US Labor Department is set to release its August jobs report, which will be intently observed by the market. Economists see the unemployment rate rising to 9.5% from 9.4%, while the number of layoffs is seen going down to 225,000 from 247,000 previously.
"If we get a good jobs number, oil could be back up over $70," news agency AP was told by Gerard Rigby, an energy analyst with Fuel First Consulting in Sydney.
"But in the last week, the market has been ignoring a lot of the positive economic news," he also told AP.
Also putting a possible restraint on the market is the fact that trading will be closed in the US on Monday for the nation's Labor Day holiday.