Oil nears $80 a barrel amid stock market surge

Oil nears $80 a barrel amid stock market surge

Oil prices climbed toward $80 a barrel Friday, catching up with a surge in global stock markets and assisted by a slightly weaker dollar which made crude more attractive to international investors, AP reported.

By midday in Europe, benchmark crude for December delivery was up 23 cents to $79.85 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 78 cents to settle at $79.62 on Thursday.

Oil traders often look to stock markets for a sense of overall investor sentiment, and the Dow Jones industrial average rose 2.1 percent Thursday on better-than-expected jobless claims numbers and positive forecasts by Cisco Systems Inc. All major Asian indexes closed higher on Friday, while markets in Europe were little changed.

The release later Friday of U.S. October unemployment figures is also expected to affect the market, with economists expecting a decline of around 175,000 jobs. The unemployment rate is expected to rise to 9.9 percent.

"Should unemployment turn out to increase substantially above expectations of the IMF of 10.15 percent in 2010, U.S. gasoline demand is likely to erode further," Vienna's JBC Energy said.

Crude investors are also watching signs in recent weeks of a drop in U.S. oil supplies, which increased sharply this year as demand shrank. Some analysts forecast higher oil prices next year as the economy strengthens and demand recovers.

"We expect fundamentals to improve as oil demand growth resumes," Morgan Stanley said in a report. "Until the oil market tightens, oil will be dragged in the wake of other risky asset price moves."

Morgan Stanley said it expects oil to average $85 a barrel next year.

Crude has crisscrossed the $80 level for the last few weeks as investors mull weak U.S. consumer demand and a volatile dollar.

On Friday, the euro bought $1.4877 in European morning trading, up slightly from $1.4868 late Thursday in New York, while the British pound also rose to $1.6610 from $1.6586 and the dollar fell against the Japanese yen, buying 90.46 against 90.78 yen Thursday.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil rose 0.48 cent to $2.0624 a gallon. Gasoline for December delivery gained 0.61 cent to $1.9938 a gallon. Natural gas for December delivery fell 7.2 cents to $4.710 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for December delivery rose 37 cents to $78.36 on the ICE Futures exchange.

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