SINGAPORE (AP) -- Oil prices rose to near $105 a barrel Thursday in Asia after control of a key oil port swung back to forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, dimming hopes of a quick rebel victory and a restart of crude exports.
Benchmark crude for May delivery was up 37 cents to $104.64 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 52 cents to settle at $104.27 on Wednesday.
In London, Brent crude was up 35 cents at $115.30 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.
On Wednesday, Gadhafi forces pushed rebels out of Ras Lanouf, an important oil terminal that has switched between the two sides several times since the uprising began last month. The latest rebel setback has raised speculation that coalition powers, which have bombed government forces for two weeks, may send ground troops to protect the rebellion or overthrow Gadhafi.
"As the military situation in Libya continues to take on the look of an extended standoff, the possibility of any significant resumption of oil exports out of the country will be pushed back further," Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report.
Investors will be closely watching U.S. jobs numbers from March, scheduled to be announced Friday. U.S. stock markets have rallied this week as analysts forecast the economy added about 190,000 non-farm jobs this month.
"We expect Friday's employment data to offer additional encouragement toward U.S. economic growth," Ritterbusch said. "These expectations are already feeding into a strong stock market that is providing background support to the energy market."
In other Nymex trading for April contracts, heating oil rose 1 cent at $3.05 a gallon and gasoline added 0.1 cent at $3.07 a gallon. Natural gas gained 0.1 cents to $4.37 per 1,000 cubic feet.
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