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Oil slips on stimulus concerns, ample supplies

Benchmark crude for February delivery fell 39 cents to $92.53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Associated Press

1/4/2013

NEW YORK  — The price of oil fell Friday as investors weighed the possibility that the Federal Reserve might end its extraordinary economic stimulus measures later this year and the nation's crude supplies remained more than ample.

Benchmark crude for February delivery fell 39 cents to $92.53 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The Labor Department reported U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in December, a steady gain that shows hiring held up during the tense negotiations to resolve the fiscal cliff. The solid job growth wasn't enough to push down the unemployment rate, however, which remained at 7.8 percent last month.

Also, the Institute for Supply Management said U.S. service firms' activity expanded in December by the most in nearly a year, driven by a jump in new orders and hiring. The index measures growth in industries that cover 90 percent of the workforce, including retail, construction, health care and financial services.

The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration on Friday reported a much bigger drop in the nation's crude supplies than analysts expected. Supplies fell by 11.1 million barrels or 3 percent. Analysts expected a drop of just a million barrels.

Oil supplies shrank as crude imports fell off by almost a million barrels a day last week. At the same time, supplies at the crucial hub for domestic crude at Cushing, Okla., stayed at near-record levels. Overall U.S. crude inventories are about 9 percent above year-ago levels.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, was down $1.22 to $110.92 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

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

— Wholesale gasoline lost 5 cents to $2.75 a gallon.

— Heating oil fell 2 cents to $3 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 5 cents to $3.27 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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