Oil hovered near $90 a barrel on Friday, searching for direction amid conflicting concerns over supply tightness and weak demand growth from a slowing economy in the United States, the world's top oil consumer.
Oil has been very volatile for much of this week, plunging and recovering sharply often during the course of a single trading session.
It fell to a six-week low early on Thursday, but before the end of the session it recovered to settle 3 percent higher.
U.S. crude stood 22 cents down at $90.01 by 8:30 a.m. EST, having jumped $2.74 in New York on Thursday. The rebound stemmed a sharp sell-off since the peak near $100 a barrel late last month on growing uncertainty about the U.S. economy.
London Brent was 16 cents down at $90.02.
Analysts list a range of factors that have influenced oil prices in recent days, some of them contradictory.
These include OPEC's refusal this week to boost output, a big crude drawdown alongside a healthy oil products build-up in the United States, the U.S. dollar, concerns about U.S. economic growth and expectations of a warmer-than-usual winter.
The movements of the last few days are not necessarily logical. There are a lot of question marks out there, said Societe Generale analyst Mike Wittner.
U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday unveiled a plan to bail out troubled homeowners by freezing rate increases on adjustable-rate subprime mortgages for five years.
This is seen broadly supportive for oil demand as it could prevent a crash in house prices that would risk driving the U.S. economy into recession.
The dollar was steady ahead of the key U.S. jobs report, expected later on Friday, for clues whether the Federal Reserve interest rate cut next week.
I'd say that fears over the strength of the U.S. consumer has taken some of the speculative heat out of the oil price, said David Dugdale, analyst at MFC Global Investment Management.
Fears of U.S. economic weakness have been a factor cited by OPEC when it decided at its meeting on Wednesday to keep production levels unchanged.
Oil has rallied around 40 percent from August to late November on concerns of a winter supply squeeze, especially with falling inventories in the United States.
Government data on Wednesday showed an 8 million barrel drop in U.S. crude stockpiles last week to their lowest level in more than two years.
But the market focused on rising product stocks, with distillates including heating oil up by 1.4 million barrels, and gasoline inventories rising 4 million barrels.
(Additional reporting by Felicia Loo in Singapore and Jane Merriman in London; editing by James Jukwey)