Oil prices rose to near $81 a barrel Friday in Asia as crude traders followed equity markets higher ahead of a key U.S. jobs report. Benchmark crude for April delivery was up 53 cents to $80.74 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 66 cents to settle at $80.21 on Thursday. U.S. stock markets rose Thursday on investor optimism that the February unemployment rate, scheduled to be released by the Labor Department later Friday, will show the economy is recovering. The jobless rate in January was 9.7 percent.