Oil rises to near $81 as US dollar weakens

SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose to near $81 a barrel Friday in Asia as the U.S. dollar weakened, making dollar-based commodities cheaper for investors with other currencies.

Benchmark crude for May delivery was up 35 cents to $80.88 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 8 cents to settle at $80.53 on Thursday.

The euro rose to $1.3368 on Friday from $1.3277 on Thursday while the dollar slipped slightly to 92.53 yen from 92.66.

Crude has meandered in the low $80s for about the last two weeks as investors look for signs global oil demand is growing. Some analysts expect U.S. demand to pickup and offset weak European consumption.

"Overall, U.S. oil demand is definitely improving, laying the foundations for a broad-based recovery ... notwithstanding the weakness in Europe," Barclays Capital said in a report.

"Thus, we continue to see oil prices consolidating in its current $75 to $85 range and on course to gradually move higher to $80 to $90."

In other Nymex trading in April contracts, heating oil rose 1.15 cents to $2.081 a gallon, and gasoline gained 0.67 cent to $2.224 a gallon. Natural gas was steady at $3.980 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude was up 41 cents at $80.02 on the ICE futures exchange.