June 19, 2009 / 6:02 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 2-Oil rises towards $72 on economic hopes

* Asian equities snap 4-day slide on U.S. data, Wall St

* U.S. jobless claims show signs of improvement

* President Obama remains concerned over speculation in oil (Updates prices)

SINGAPORE, June 19 (Reuters) - Oil rose towards $72 a barrel on Friday, extending its gains of a day earlier on bullish U.S. economic data and supply concerns in OPEC member Nigeria.

Reflecting fresh optimism for an economic turnaround, Asian equity markets snapped four days of losses, following a rally on Wall Street, where the Dow and S&P 500 broke a three-day losing streak following positive job and regional manufacturing reports.

U.S. crude CLc1 rose 45 cents to $71.82 a barrel by 0708 GMT, and London Brent crude LCOc1 gained 45 cents to $71.51.

“Prices are trailing a bit from yesterday’s upward movement. The U.S. data gave people reason for hope that a rebound in the United States may soon arrive,” said Ben Westmore, a commodities analyst at National Australia Bank.

The reading on the Philadelphia Federal Reserve business activity index was the highest since September 2008, and the Conference Board’s forward-looking measure of the U.S. economy posted its biggest increase in five years in May. [ID:nN18379372]

On jobs, the number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose last week, but the number of people staying on the benefits rolls fell for the first time since January, data showed on Thursday. [ID:nN18383887]

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS climbed 1.0 percent by 0705 GMT, while Japan's Nikkei average .N225 rose 0.9 percent.

Oil prices have nearly doubled since February on signs of a potential economic recovery but the pace of the rally has also sparked concerns that prices do not fully reflect improvements in oil fundamentals, and costly crude may hurt any nascent recovery.

President Barack Obama remains concerned about speculation in the oil markets even though he has not proposed concrete steps to rein it in, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Thursday.

As a presidential candidate, Obama supported enaction of requirements that would limit U.S. energy futures to trade only on regulated exchanges. [ID:nN18413341]

Oil prices also found support after Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) confirmed some oil production had been halted following an attack on one of its pipelines on Wednesday in Bayelsa state in Nigeria. [ID:nLI310768] (Reporting by Chua Baizhen; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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