Oil ticked up above $68 a barrel on Friday in relatively thin dealing as investors awaited jobs data from the United States to provide some insight into the health of the world's top economy.

By 1145 GMT (7:45 a.m. EDT), U.S. crude was up 41 cents at $68.37 a barrel. London Brent crude rose 8 cents to $67.20.

We are seeing directionless trading today ahead of the U.S. employment report, said Tony Nunan, risk manager at Mitsubishi Corp. in Tokyo.

The big issue is that a lot of the economic indicators have shown improvement, except for the employment numbers, and high unemployment figures are bad for overall oil demand.

The U.S. Labor Department will release the August non-farm payrolls report at 1230 GMT (8:30 a.m. EDT). Economists polled by Reuters forecast 225,000 jobs were lost last month, the smallest number in a year.

Meanwhile, European equities .FTEU3 rose 1 percent, while the dollar was little changed on a trade-weighted basis ahead of the jobless data.


Oil prices have traded in a range between about $67 and $69.40 a barrel for three days, and high levels of oil inventories have pushed them down by some 6 percent since the end of last week.

If crude prices end this week down more than 6 percent, that would be the biggest weekly decline in eight weeks.

High oil inventory levels in many consuming countries, such as the United States and China, have been a concern for OPEC, which meets next week in Vienna to discuss output policy.

Most analysts expect the producer group, the source of more than a third of the world's oil supply, will agree to maintain its official output target to keep prices stable around $70.

(Additional reporting by Jennifer Tan in Singapore; Editing by Keiron Henderson)