North Sea slipped on Friday in early Asian trade as doubts once more reasserted themselves in the minds of investors about the timing of a global economic recovery. That followed mixed economic data about the world’s biggested energy consumer, the United States.

Benchmark Brent fell 56 cents to $72.77 a barrel at around noon in Singapore on the ICE Futures exchange.

Meanwhile WTI for October delivery nosed down 68 cents to $72.23 in Singapore on NYMEX electronic trade.

Traders said crude prices moved back a bit on Friday in Asia after the US Labour Department on Thursday said the number of first-time unemployment claims rose unexpectedly for the second straight week.

Also weighing on investors minds was the statement from the US Mortgage Bankers Association which said more than 13% of homeowners with a mortgage were either behind on their payments or in foreclosure.

"There are no real signs that consumption in the US is picking up," news agency AP was told by Ben Westmore, energy analyst with National Australia Bank in Melbourne.

"Until we see that, investors won’t be assured that the recovery is imminent."

Investors are in an uncertain mood, this week bidding up oil an economic data which suggested the opposite about the economic cycle – and realise that data at the bottom of the correction is likely to turn this way and that, often by the day.

Earlier in the week investors were cheered when the US Eergy Information Administration said crude in storage fell by 8.4 million barrels last week, suggesting demand could be improving.

Meanwhile, the Conference Board’s economic forecasting gauge, the Index of Leading Economic Indicators, rose for the fourth straight month during July.

"The data is quite volatile," Westmore told AP.

"If we see more inventory draws, oil could break through the $75 a barrel mark."