Investing.com – Crude oil was slightly weaker in early Asia on Friday with investors looking ahead to figures from the U.S. on rig counts.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, WTI crude for February delivery eased 0.03% to $31.10 a barrel.
Oil traders turn their attention to Friday’s weekly oil rig count from Baker Hughes for further indications on the supply-demand imbalance nationwide. A week earlier, the rig count fell by 20 to 516 for the week ending on Jan. 1. It marked the third consecutive week of weekly draws and the seventh time in eight weeks that the rig count has moved lower. The rig total is down sharply from its level in November, 2014, when it hovered around 1,600.
Overnight, U.S. crude futures rallied from near 12-year lows on Thursday amid heavy profit taking, enjoying a brief reprieve from a massive rout to open the New Year.
On the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), Brent crude for March delivery wavered between $29.72 and $31.18 a barrel before closing at $30.97, up 0.79 or 2.62% on the day. North Sea brent futures briefly hit a fresh 12-year low on Thursday, before rebounding to end a nine-day losing streak. Since the start of the new year, brent futures have crashed by nearly 20%.
Investors continued to digest a bearish supply report from Wednesday’s session when the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its Weekly Petroleum Status Report that U.S. commercial crude inventories rose by 0.2 million barrels last week for the week ending on January 8. At 482.6 million barrels, U.S. crude oil inventories remain near levels not seen for this time of year in at least the last 80 years. Although analysts expected to see a build of 2.5 million barrels for the week, investors changed their expectations after the American Petroleum Institute reported a draw of 3.9 million barrels on Tuesday after the bell.
Energy traders also kept a close eye on geopolitical issues after militants from the Islamic State claimed responsibility for attacks in the heart of Jakarta on Thursday, which killed at least two people and wounded 19 others. It came two days after a suicide bomber reportedly linked to ISIS killed at least 10 people near a popular tourist area in Istanbul. On Thursday, Turkey reportedly established a blockade of a Kurdish region in Syria, preventing scores of Kurds from receiving critical supplies.
Investors are sensitive to any news of heightened geopolitical instability in the Middle East, home to approximately 35% of the world’s daily crude production.
Elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending January 8 increased by 7,000 to 284,000 from the previous week’s total of 277,000. Analysts expected jobless claims to fall by 2,000 to 275,000 last week.
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