LONDON (SHARECAST) - Crude oil futures eked out a small gain on Wednesday, in skittish trade, as markets await the European Central Bank's policy meeting and US jobs data due Friday.
Crude prices spent most of the day moving in and out of negative territory as markets nervously look ahead to the ECB talks. Investors are expecting the central bank to launch a bond-buying programme to lower borrowing costs for struggling Eurozone nations.
Hops are pinned on plans to buy short-term bonds, of up to three years maturity, of countries like Spain and Italy.
Crude for October delivery rose 6 cents to settle at $95.36 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Oil had been given a boost after US economic data showed non-farm labour productivity rose at an annual rate of 2.2% in the second quarter, higher than estimates of 1.8% growth. However gains were short-lived as nerves resumed.
Traders are also looking ahead to US weekly inventory data which is released a day later than usual due to Monday's Labor Day holiday. Analysts are expected big draws on crude oil stockpiles in the wake of Hurricane Isaac after refineries were temporarily shut down.
In London, ICE North Sea Brent for October fell $1.09 to settle at $113.09 a barrel.
European economic data failed to provide any cheer on Wednesday after the Markit euro-zone composite purchasing-managers’ index, or PMI, revealed private-sector activity slowed in August. The PMI declined to 46.3 last month from 46.5 in July after a preliminary reading of 46.6.
The index for the services sector also fell to 47.2 from 47.9 in July. A figure below 50 indicates a contraction.
Gold lost its allure on Wednesday as investors preferred to stay on the sidelines ahead of Thursday's ECB meeting and the US jobs report on Friday.
Gold for delivery in December fell $2 to settle at $1,694 an ounce on the Comex division of New York Mercantile Exchange.
Elsewhere palladium for December delivery added $5.50 at $646.95 an ounce while October platinum piled on $8.10 to $1,575.60 an ounce.
Silver for December tracked gold's losses to fall 8 cents at $32.33 an ounce.