'Iran Factor' Neutralized for Now; But Oil Prices Still Rise
Oil prices rose to near $103 a barrel today (April 20) in Asia amid signs the U.S. economic recovery remains uneven.
Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 43 cents to $102.70 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 40 cents to settle at $102.27 in New York on Thursday, The Associated Press reported.
Brent crude for June delivery was up 25 cents at $118.25 per barrel in London.
Stock markets, which oil traders often look to as a measure of overall investor sentiment, fell in the U.S. on Thursday and in Asia today.
Crude has slid from $110 last month as tensions eased over Iran's nuclear program. Negotiators from Iran and six world powers met last week and agreed to meet again in May.
Investors have worried that a pre-emptive attack by Israel or the U.S. on Iran's nuclear facilities would likely disrupt global crude supplies.
"The Iran factor has been neutralized for at least another month until another round of negotiations provides guidance," energy trader and consultant Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report.
Disappointing reports on U.S. jobs, housing and manufacturing weighed on investor confidence.
On Thursday, an index of regional manufacturing compiled by the Philadelphia branch of the Federal Reserve dropped sharply, and the National Association of Realtors said home sales fell 2.6 percent last month.
The Labor Department also said applications for unemployment benefits dipped 2,000 to 386,000. When the number is above 375,000, investors take it as a sign that hiring isn't strong enough to lower the unemployment rate.
A month ago, the figure stood at 348,000.