Brent hovers above $113 ahead of U.S. Fed meeting

Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:56am GMT

* Federal Open Market Committee's meeting to end on Wednesday

* Oil prices to draw support from recent strong economic data

* Coming Up: U.S. non-farm payrolls report on Friday

By Jessica Jaganathan

SINGAPORE, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Brent crude held steady above $113 per barrel on Monday ahead of a U.S. Federal Reserve policy meeting and key employment data due later this week that will be scoured for further signs of recovery in the world's biggest oil consumer.

The Fed, whose policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee concludes a two-day meeting on Wednesday, said just last month that it expects to keep short-term interest rates exceptionally low until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent, inflation permitting.

But Friday's non-farm payroll figures are likely to show the jobless rate was unchanged in January at 7.8 percent, while the economy created 155,000 jobs, the same as in December, according to economists polled by Reuters.

"Participants are waiting to see results of these two events and it is unlikely that there will be big movements in oil prices today," said Ken Hasegawa, a commodities sales manager at Newedge Japan.

"If these two events show positive results, then it's possible for WTI to touch $100 a barrel on Friday but if the results are worse than expected, the downside is limited to the $94 a barrel range."

He added that Brent oil prices might trade within the $112 to $117 a barrel range this week.

Brent slipped 9 cents to $113.19 a barrel by 0349 GMT. U.S. crude rose 7 cents to $95.95 after seven straight weekly gains - longest such streak since early 2009.

"Technically, I think (oil prices) are on the way to the upside," Hasegawa said, citing recent strong economic data that points towards a global recovery.

Manufacturing in China and the United States grew this month at the quickest pace in about two years while German business morale improved for a third straight month in January, increasing optimism about the state of the world economy and fuelling hopes that demand for oil will go up.

Also, banks will repay more than 130 billion euros of crisis loans to the European Central Bank next week, handing more cash back earlier than expected in a sign at least parts of the financial system are returning to health.

MIDDLE EAST TENSION SUPPORTS

Tensions in the oil-producing Middle East remained, also supporting oil prices.

Iran would consider any attack on Syria an attack on itself, a senior government official was quoted as saying on Saturday, in one of Tehran's most assertive defences of its ally yet. Iran is a key supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad who is fighting a near two-year-long revolt.

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi declared a month-long state of emergency in three cities along the Suez Canal where dozens of people have been killed over the past four days in protests his allies say are designed to overthrow him.

U.N. Security Council envoys flew to Yemen amid tight security on Sunday to show support for a U.S.-backed power transfer deal in danger of faltering and plunging the country back into chaos. (Editing by Himani Sarkar)