Oil lingers below $70 as traders eye earnings

SINGAPORE: Oil prices lingered below $70 as investors looked to third quarter company earnings reports this week for clues to the health of the U.S. economy.

Benchmark crude for November deliver was down 5 cents at $69.90 by midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 87 cents to settle at $69.95 on Friday.

Last week, weak economic data weighed on crude prices. The U.S. reported worse than expected manufacturing and jobs numbers, with the unemployment rate rising to 9.8 percent in September, the highest since 1983.

U.S. oil inventory data was mixed last week, suggesting consumer demand has yet to rebound strongly from the recession.

"Economic and oil data remain consistent with a macro economy just beginning to push off the trough, leaving markets with a lack of clear direction," Goldman Sachs said in a report.

Traders will be eyeing the first earnings for the July to September period, with Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc., PepsiCo Inc. and Marriott International Inc. scheduled to report this week.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil was steady at $1.79 a gallon. Gasoline for November delivery held at $1.74 a gallon. Natural gas for November delivery fell 2.0 cents to $4.74 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude fell 2 cents to $68.05 on the ICE Futures exchange.