Oil prices rose to near $81 a barrel on Friday as crude traders followed stock markets higher ahead of a key U.S. jobs report.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for April delivery was up 41 cents to $80.62 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 66 cents to settle at $80.21 on Thursday.
U.S. stock markets rose Thursday on investor optimism that the February unemployment rate, scheduled to be released by the Labor Department later Friday, will show the economy is recovering. The jobless rate in January was 9.7 percent.
“Should the dollar weaken after the numbers are released, as we think it might, we suspect energy chart patterns are still constructive enough to allow oil prices to work a little higher before a more major correction sets in,” said Edward Meir, senior commoditiy analyst at MF Global in New York.
Most major Asian and European stock markets rose on Friday, and crude traders often look to equities as a measure of overall investor sentiment.
“Bullish surprises within the payrolls data could easily ignite a broad based rally” in stocks and commodities, Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report.
In other Nymex trading in April contracts, heating oil rose 0.83 cent to $2.0770 a gallon, and gasoline gained 1.01 cents to $2.2438 a gallon. Natural gas gained 0.4 cent at $4.579 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude was up 52 cents at $79.06 on the ICE futures exchange.