SINGAPORE–Oil prices rose to above US$102 a barrel in Asia as investors await the latest U.S. employment data for clues about crude demand. Benchmark crude for February delivery rose 37 cents to US$102.18 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell US$1.41 to settle at US$101.81 in New York on Thursday. In London, Brent crude was up 12 cents at US$112.86 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange. In other Nymex trading, heating oil gained 3.0 cents at US$3.07 per gallon and gasoline futures added 1.6 cents at US$2.75 per gallon. Natural gas futures were down 0.4 cents to US$2.98 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Traders will be closely watching the Labor Department’s jobs report for December, scheduled to be released later Friday. The department on Thursday reported another drop in the number of people filing for unemployment benefits, and ADP, which processes payroll data, said private employers added 325,000 jobs last month. Crude has jumped from US$75 in October amid signs the U.S. economy is slowly improving. The unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in November, and a further drop would signal to investors that as the economy strengthens, so too will demand for crude products such as gasoline and diesel.