SINGAPORE – SINGAPORE (AP) — Oil prices dropped slightly to below $75 a barrel Friday in Asia amid mixed U.S. economic indicators suggesting the world's largest crude consumer remains mired in an uneven recovery.
Benchmark crude for November delivery was down 26 cents to $74.92 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 47 cents to settle at $75.18 on Thursday.
Initial claims for jobless aid rose by 12,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 465,000, the first increase in five weeks, the Labor Department said Thursday. Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes rose 7.6 percent in August from July, which was the worst month for sales in 15 years.
And the Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of leading economic indicators rose modestly in August.
The mixed figures suggests the U.S. economy is not heading for a double-dip recession but neither is it rebounding strongly from last year's contraction.
Earlier this week, the Energy Department said crude inventory levels extended decades-long highs.
Oil prices are being buffeted by "the offsetting influences of bearish oil balances and supportive economic releases that have proven sufficiently favorable," Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report.
Investors will be watching closely the latest news on durable goods and new home sales later Friday for more clues about the strength of the U.S. economy.
In other Nymex trading in October contracts, heating oil fell 0.28 cent to $2.112 a gallon and gasoline was steady at $1.917 a gallon. Natural gas held at $4.025 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude fell 35 cents to $77.76 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.