NEW YORK, July 22 (UPI) -- Crude oil prices held relatively flat at the start of trading Friday, with modestly upbeat industry sentiment balancing against lingering European concerns.
Earnings season started in earnest this week with major industry players expressing some modest optimism with crude oil prices holding relatively stable in the mid- to upper-$40 range since May. Oil services company Halliburton and Schlumberger each said this week that, from their perspective, the market has moved past its worst sessions already this year.
Crude oil prices drifted modestly lower in early Friday trading, however, after Eurostat, the European data-keeping agency, reported government debts in the 19 countries that use the euro currency were up during the first quarter, though regionally lower when weighed against fourth quarter 2015.
The price for Brent crude oil moved down 0.3 percent to start the day at $46.05 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark price for oil, was off 0.5 percent to start trading in New York at $44.52 per barrel.
Oil prices may be influenced later today by data from Baker Hughes, which last week reported recovery in exploration and production activity.
The European Central Bank decided Thursday to hold interest rates stable, saying momentum was undermined now that the United Kingdom was leaving the European Union.
A survey published Friday by the ECB finds forecasters expecting only slight improvement in employment prospects in the EU, with the unemployment rate dropping from around 10 percent for 2016 to 9.5 percent in 2018. The 2016 rate is more than double that of the jobless rate in the United States.
Forecasters told the ECB they expected the regional economy to grow at a rate of 1.4 percent next year, a 0.2 percent downward revision.
"Based on the information provided by the respondents, these revisions largely reflect an expected negative impact on the euro area from the UK referendum result," the ECB survey read.