Light sweet crude for February delivery declined 0.71 percent or 66 cents to $92.26 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange during the Asian trading hours. Brent crude oil futures for the February delivery fell 0.55 percent or 62 cents to $111.52 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.
The minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) December policy meeting released Thursday showed that the policymakers were dividend on expanding the Fed’s balance sheet beyond 2013, raising the concern that the economic recovery in the world’s largest oil consuming nation might falter.
A few members expressed the view that the ongoing asset purchases would likely be warranted until about the end of 2013. Several members of the FOMC thought that the Fed's bond purchasing program should be slowed or stopped by the end of the year, citing the concerns about the financial stability or the size of the balance sheet.
"Most people do not want to take further risks in equities and commodities if the QE (quantitative easing) program is not going to continue beyond 2013," Tetsu Emori, a commodities fund manager at Astmax Investments in Tokyo, told Reuters.
Meanwhile, investors are eagerly waiting for the U.S. Department of Labor's monthly non-farm payrolls report, which is the most closely watched economic statement pertaining to the job market and a key gauge for the direction and pace of the economic recovery.
The much awaited U.S. jobs report is due to be released before the markets open Friday and is expected to show that the world’s largest economy added 180,000 jobs last month, following a 146,000-gain in November. The unemployment rate is likely to edge up to 7.8 percent in December from 7.7 percent in the previous month.
On Thursday, the light sweet crude for the February delivery fell 0.2 percent or 20 cents and settled at $92.92 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude for the February delivery slipped 33 cents and settled at $112.14 a barrel.