Oil prices were mixed in volatile Asian trade today as weak economic growth in Europe offset the data showing buoyant employment growth in the United States, analysts said.

New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, gained three cents to $97.34 a barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for April delivery shed three cents to $117.97.

Jobless claims

US claims for unemployment insurance, which indicates the pace of layoffs, fell to 341,000 in the week to February 9 compared with 368,000 in the previous week.

Euro zone growth data

But “disappointing” euro zone growth data weighed on the sentiment, said Ker Chung Yung, a senior investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore.

The euro zone economy shrank 0.6 per cent in the three months to December, worse than analyst projections for a decline of 0.4 per cent and signalling a deepening of the recession.

ECB forecast

The European Central Bank also slashed their euro zone growth forecasts for 2013 and 2014.

“Fourth quarter GDP growth was considerably worse than expected,” DBS Bank said in a market commentary.

“Besides being the worst of the past five quarters, the main news is that Europe’s core is now unquestionably mired in what used to be a periphery problem,” it said, noting contractions in major economies France and Germany.