NYMEX-Crude prices steady above $97, U.S. demand outlook supports
TOKYO, Feb 15 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures were steady above $97 a barrel on Friday, holding a slight gain from the day before on encouraging U.S. jobless data and concerns over U.S. gasoline supply.
* NYMEX crude for March delivery, which expires on Wednesday, was up 2 cents at $97.33 a barrel by 00017 GMT, after settling 30 cents higher at $97.31 on Thursday.
The contract was standing about 1 percent lower than a 4-1/2 month high of $98.24 marked on Jan. 30.
* London Brent crude for April delivery was yet to trade, having settled up 12 cents at $118.00.
* The market got support on Thursday after the number of Americans filing claims for unemployment fell more than expected last week, suggesting an accelerating economic recovery for the world's largest oil consumer.
* U.S. RBOB gasoline rose 0.5 percent on Friday, on top of a gain of more than 2 percent a day earlier, on the expectation that a busy refinery maintenance season could draw down stockpiles, despite current healthy levels.
* European data, however, curbed expectations of higher oil demand. Euro zone economic output fell 0.6 percent in the final quarter of 2012, marking a larger decline than expected in a Reuters poll.
Germany, France and Italy saw their economies, the three biggest in the euro zone, shrink more than expected. The German economy contracted by 0.6 percent, its worst performance since 2009 and well below analyst forecasts.
* Supply worries in the Middle East returned to the forefront after the International Atomic Energy Agency failed to reach a deal in talks with Iran over investigating the country's nuclear programme.
* The S&P 500 eked out a small gain for a third straight session on Thursday, helped by a flurry of merger activity, though investors see no catalysts to lift the market further with major averages near multi-year highs.
* The euro nursed heavy losses on Friday, while markets braced for more conflicting comments on currencies as G20 officials meet in Moscow.
* The following data is expected on Friday: (Time in GMT)
- 0430 Japan Industrial output revised
- 0900 Italy Trade balance
- 1000 Euro zone Eurostat trade
- 1330 U.S. New York Fed manufacturing
- 1415 U.S. Industrial output
- 1455 U.S. Univ of Michigan sentiment index
- 1930 U.S. CFTC commitment of traders data
- G20 Finance ministers and central bankers' meeting in Moscow
(to Feb. 16)
(Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford)