--Crude mostly unchanged Friday as traders weigh disappointing data against hopes for central bank stimulus
--Nymex futures recently 4c higher at $83.95/Bbl
--Traders bracing for Greek elections this weekend
By Jerry A. DiColo
NEW YORK--U.S. crude futures held near flat Friday, with weakening economic data and worries about the upcoming Greek election paired against hopes for central bank stimulus measures.
Light, sweet crude for July delivery recently traded 4 cents higher at $83.95 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after trading as high as $84.80 earlier in the session.
Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange for August delivery traded 26 cents higher at $97.43 a barrel.
Rising claims for unemployment in the U.S., coupled with weak manufacturing data, have added to concerns that oil demand will slump with the broader economy.
On Friday, a reading of manufacturing activity in New York in June came in far below expectations, falling to the lowest level since November. Additionally, May industrial production fell 0.1%. Economists had expected a modest increase.
But weakness in U.S. and global economic indicators is also providing hope among investors that the Federal Reserve and other central banks will take further steps to help the economy.
"The crude market is dealing with the whole 'bad is good' notion that we might see further stimulus," said Matt Smith, an analyst at Summit Energy. "Poor economic data has dragged on crude, but on the upside there is the possibility of further stimulus. And the combination of that is keeping us rather flat today."
Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, signalled that the bank was prepared to provide market liquidity if necessary. The Bank of England also said it would act to calm markets, if necessary.
Meanwhile, the Fed is due to meet next week and will decide on whether to offer further stimulus measure.
Oil prices have marched in tandem with broader markets in recent weeks, falling amid widening fears in Europe about Spain's debt woes and the possibility that Greece may abandon the euro.
Greek elections over the weekend could result in the nation abandoning austerity measures imposed as a condition of receiving bailouts from other euro-zone members, which would bring the country closer to default.
Any further chaos in Europe is likely to weigh on oil and other raw materials as traders flock to safe-haven assets such as U.S. Treasurys and the dollar.
"Commodity markets today are very much macro-driven," said analysts at Standard Chartered.
On Thursday, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to leave its output limit unchanged at 30 million barrels a day. The group is currently pumping around 31.6 million barrels a day, so any move to cut production and adhere to the limit could help support oil prices.
Front-month July reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, recently traded 0.44 cent lower at $2.6808 a gallon. July heating oil recently traded 1.21 cents higher at $2.6399 a gallon.
Write to Jerry A. DiColo at [email protected]