Oil takes breather in Asia after strong rally

Oil prices took a breather in Asian trade Friday as investors locked in profits after a strong rally following the European Central Bank's decision to cut interest rates.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, dropped 30 cents to $93.69 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery shed 25 cents to $102.60 in afternoon trade.

Prices surged nearly $3.0 in closing deals Thursday after the ECB slashed interest rates to a record low of 0.50 percent, with upbeat US economic data also boosting sentiment.

"Crude posted quite a strong rally after the ECB rate cut. We're seeing some profit-taking ahead of the weekend," Ker Chung Yang, senior investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore, told AFP.

The widely expected ECB move on Thursday is part of efforts to boost demand and stimulate growth in the debt-stricken eurozone.

In the United States, new claims for unemployment benefits -- an indicator of the pace of layoffs -- fell by 18,000 to 324,000 in the week ending April 27, Labor Department figures showed Thursday.

It was the lowest level since January 2008.