SINGAPORE – Oil prices rose to near $91 a barrel Friday in Asia as traders eyed violent street clashes in Egypt and a key U.S. jobs report.
Benchmark crude for March delivery was up 45 cents at $90.99 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 32 cents to settle at $90.54 on Thursday.
In London, Brent crude gained 23 cents to $101.99 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
Oil investors have been closely watching clashes between supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo this week after the 82-year-old leader resisted protesters' calls for his immediate resignation. Shipping through Egypt's Suez Canal has not been disrupted, but investors are also concerned political instability could spread to oil rich countries in the Middle East.
"Oil prices would surely rise much further if there were any serious disruption to production elsewhere in the region or to traffic through the Suez Canal," Capital Economics said in a report. "But there is still no sign of this and little reason to expect it."
"The bulk of the rise in oil prices over the last few months reflects buoyant global demand rather than uncertainty in the Middle East."
Crude traders will also be eyeing the U.S. employment report for January due to be released by the Labor Department later Friday. Analysts expect a net total of 146,000 new jobs were added last month while the unemployment rate is likely to tick up to 9.5 percent from 9.4 percent in December.
Trading volume was light in Asia as markets in mainland China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore were closed Friday for Lunar New Year.
In other Nymex trading in February contracts, heating oil rose 0.5 cent to $2.77 a gallon and gasoline gained 0.6 cent to $2.51 a gallon. Natural gas futures for March delivery were up 1.5 cents at $4.35 per 1,000 cubic feet.