CRUDE oil fluctuated near a 27-month high as US jobless claims jumped to the highest level since October and the euro surged against the dollar.
Oil gained as much as 0.6pc before paring its advance as the number of first-time claims for unemployment insurance payments increased. The euro climbed, boosting the appeal of dollar-denominated commodities, after ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet said inflation risks may rise.
"The jobless claims are making people marginally bearish," said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Winchester, Massachusetts. "A lower dollar is bullish, and that's one reason why the market's not moving strongly. It's kind of a seesaw between the two."
Oil for February delivery fell 75 cents, or 0.8pc, to $91.11 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Yesterday, futures settled at $91.86, the highest level since October 3, 2008. Prices have risen 14pc in the past year.
Oil prices were bolstered by the weakness in the dollar after the euro surged on Mr Trichet's comments -- optimism that European leaders will take action to quell the region's debt crisis and as Spain met its target at its first debt auction of the year.