Oil prices lingered near USD 50 a barrel on Friday in Asia as investors weighed a possible second-half recovery of US crude demand against recent dismal economic data reflecting a severe recession.
Benchmark crude for May delivery fell 33 cents to USD 49.65 a barrel by midday in Singapore in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract yesterday rose 73 cents to settle at USD 49.98.
Oil prices have bobbed around USD 50 a barrel this month as the current backdrop of high unemployment,weak consumer demand and falling corporate profits has tempered investor optimism about an eventual economic rebound.
“We know there will be a recovery,people are just wary about when it will happen,” said Gerard Rigby,an energy analyst with Fuel First Consulting in Sydney. “We need better economic news to break it out of this range”.
Falling crude demand and rising inventories have kept prices from rising higher. Storage facilities for crude oil in the US have been swelling since the end of February,bloating to a nearly 19-year high last week.
Stores of natural gas also are rising. The Energy Information Administration said yesterday that US natural gas inventories rose by 21 billion cubic feet for the week ended April 10. The 1.695 trillion cubic feet in storage was 23 per cent above the five-year average.