Oil prices turn higher in Asian trade
World oil prices turned higher in Asia on Friday after recent choppy trade with markets weighing the likely slowing of economic growth against concerns about tight supplies, dealers said.
In morning trade, New York's main oil contract, light sweet crude for delivery in May, rose 46 cents to $104.29 per barrel.
The benchmark contract fell one dollar to $103.83 per barrel at the close of floor trading on Thursday at the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Brent North Sea crude for May advanced 48 cents to $103 a barrel, after settling at $102.52 on Thursday in London.
The markets digested comments on Wednesday from Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke that the US economy could slide into a possible recession during the first half of 2008, and news from the International Monetary Fund that it would cut its global growth forecast by a substantial half a percentage point to 3.7 percent.
Crude futures had rocketed on Wednesday after the US government's Energy Information Administration said that American gasoline reserves tumbled by 4.5 million barrels last week. Market expectations had been for a lighter drop of 2.5 million barrels.
At the same time, the EIA said US crude inventories had surged by 7.4 million barrels in the week ending March 28. The gain smashed analysts' consensus forecast for a gain of 2.25 million barrels.
The market is beginning to closely watch gasoline inventories ahead of the United States' peak demand season for motor fuel, which begins in May when Americans begin their summer vacations.
US unemployment figures due for release on Friday will be closely watched as traders mull the health of the American economy.