Brent crude oil traded steadily near $104 on Friday morning as mixed signals kept the commodity trading in a tight range. Brent traded at $104.11 at 8:05 GMT on Friday morning after positive US data gave the commodity a lift, but uncertainty in China kept a lid on prices.
American jobless claims fell last week, injecting optimism into the markets and restoring some confidence in the region's recovery. The number of US citizens filling for unemployment aid dropped to its lowest level in over five years and reconfirmed April's strong employment report.
However, data from China has kept pressure on Brent as the nation's inflation rose in April, which most expect will limit the central bank's ability spur economic growth. Confidence in the number two oil consumer was already shaky after reports showed that Chinese gross domestic product didn't meet expectations.
Tension in the Middle East has also been supporting Brent prices as the conflict in Syria has begun to spread outside the nation's borders. According to CNBC an Israeli airstrike near Damascus prompted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to claim that Syria is providing sophisticated arms to his group in response. Most expect Brent to remain above $100 as long as the conflict continues.
Iran and the United States remain locked in a stalemate over Iran's nuclear development program. Although the two have been meeting to work through the issue diplomatically, no agreement has been reached. Now, the United States has blacklisted two companies for their participation in helping Iran evade oil sanctions. The US also penalized four firms based in Tehran for helping the Islamic Republic enrich uranium.
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