World oil prices held firm on Friday as investors locked in profits after a strong rally following the European Central Bank's decision to cut interest rates, and at the end of a rollercoaster week that was mostly driven by global economic data, analysts said.
The market was also buoyed by hopes of an upbeat US non-farm payrolls report, which is slated for publication later in the day.
Brent North Sea crude for delivery in June rose 36 cents to $103.26 a barrel approaching midday in London. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for June gained 18 cents to $94.17.
Crude futures had spiked nearly $3.00 higher on Thursday, in the wake of the ECB's interest rate cut and positive US economic data, traders said. The jump in prices reversed Wednesday's sharp losses that were tied to glum economic figures.
"Crude posted quite a strong rally after the ECB rate cut. We're seeing some profit-taking ahead of the weekend," Ker Chung Yang, senior investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore, told AFP.
Thursday's widely-expected quarter-point rate reduction, to a record low of 0.50 percent, is part of the ECB's efforts to boost demand and help the debt-stricken eurozone escape from recession. It also comes after the US Federal Reserve maintained its stimulative monetary policy stance on Wednesday.
"The recent rebound in crude oil prices is a result of more confidence in the global economy as ECB and Fed decisions to stimulate growth could bring a boost in oil demand for the second half of 2013," noted Sucden brokers analyst Myrto Sokou.
"Today all eyes remain on the US non-farm payroll data that will set the tone for today's trading activity," she added.
Also helping was the weekly US jobless claims report, which came in much better than expected, suggesting some tightness in the jobs market.
The Labor Department data showed new claims for unemployment benefits had fallen to a five-year low. The claims -- an indicator of the pace of layoffs -- fell by 18,000 to 324,000, the lowest level since mid-January 2008.
World oil prices had meanwhile tumbled by almost $2.5 on Wednesday as traders took their cue from fresh signs of economic weakness in the United States and China, and after a US inventory report showed crude stocks at their highest point in more than 30 years.
The decline came after a stream of disappointing economic data from the world's top two oil-consuming countries.
Wednesday's weekly US oil inventory report showed US supplies at their highest level since the government began collecting the data in 1982. Crude oil stocks soared 6.7 million barrels, well above the 800,000 barrels forecast by analysts.
"Oil prices have been very closely linked with economic sentiment over the past couple of days, rising and falling in conjunction with how investors judged economic results," said analyst Gary Hornby at British energy consultancy Inenco.
"Oil dropped back below $100 per barrel briefly after Chinese manufacturing PMI data came in worse than expected, before posting the largest daily rise in almost six months, to reach $103 a barrel, after the ECB cut interest rates and US weekly jobless claims fell to five-year lows."