Oil prices diverge ahead of US data
Oil prices were narrowly mixed on Thursday as markets sat tight amid political turmoil in indebted eurozone nation Italy and ahead of key data in the United States, the world's biggest consumer of crude.
Brent North Sea crude for delivery in April rose 10 cents to $111.97 a barrel approaching midday in London.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for April, fell 27 cents to $92.49 a barrel.
"In news across the eurozone, it seems that the on-going concerns about the political uncertainty in Italy and its possible impact on the eurozones stability appear to have faded into the background for now," said Myrto Sokou, analyst at Sucden brokers.
"It is a very busy day on the US economic data, with the main focus turning to the release of the crucial US GDP figures as well as the weekly jobless claims data that will set the tone for today's trading session," she added.
On Wednesday, President Barack Obama's former chief of staff Jack Lew was confirmed as the next US Treasury secretary, taking over a key portfolio at a time of deadlock over the country's budget and debt.
Lew, expected to be sworn in early Thursday, replaces Timothy Geithner, who steered the Obama administration through the financial crisis.
The White House is now locked in a new showdown, this time with Republican lawmakers over how to avoid some $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts that are set to kick in from Friday.
Lawmakers acknowledge the deadline will likely pass without a deal to avert the cuts, and that those negotiations would be rolled into next month's debate over 2013 government funding levels.
Oil prices climbed slightly Wednesday on encouraging US industrial data, but a rise in American stockpiles and more eurozone uncertainty kept a cap on gains, dealer said.
Crude futures had fallen on Tuesday, with Brent closing down $1.73 a barrel, amid uncertainty stemming from Italy's inconclusive elections and expectations of fresh increases in bulging US crude inventories.
© 2013 AFP