Oil price falls below $92 ahead of US jobs data

Associated Press

The price of oil fell more than a dollar Friday, to below $92 a barrel, ahead of key U.S. jobs data and as investors weighed the possibility that the Federal Reserve might end its extraordinary economic stimulus measures later this year.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for February delivery was down $1.05 to $91.87 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 20 cents to $92.92 per barrel on the Nymex on Thursday.

The payrolls figures are a key indicator for the U.S. economy, the world's largest, and often move markets. Analysts expected the U.S. added about 150,000 jobs in December.

Investors were cautious ahead of the release of the figures, taking profits on a recent rise in market prices.

Earlier in the week, oil prices posted strong gains after the U.S. Congress approved a compromise deal preventing the "fiscal cliff" crisis of steep, automatic tax and spending increases from hammering the U.S. economy. But it puts off for two months some hard decisions about spending cuts that are needed to get the country's mammoth deficit under control.

"What we currently experience in the oil market is a healthy correction lower, as investors try to digest the U.S. deal while renewed concerns about a possible end to (stimulus measures) in the US currently weighs on market sentiment," said a report from Sucden Financial Research in London. "In addition, it seems that the U.S. fiscal cliff euphoria has already faded, prompting investors to some profit-taking as risk appetite is limited."

A transcript of the last meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve showed central bankers divided over how long the Fed should keep buying bonds to support the economy.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, was down $1.25 to $110.99 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Wholesale gasoline lost 3.9 cents to $2.7587 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 3.05 cents to $2.9946 a gallon.

— Natural gas added 4.9 cents to $3.247 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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