Brent falls below $112 as Fed minutes, U.S. budget battles weigh

Thu Jan 3, 2013 9:53pm EST

Related Topics

* Fed worries about side effects of stimulus package

* U.S. crude stockpiles fell 12 mln bbls last week -API

* Coming up: U.S. Dec non-farm payrolls at 1330 GMT

* U.S. EIA weekly oil stocks data at 1530 GMT

By Florence Tan

SINGAPORE, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Brent crude fell below $112 a barrel on Friday as growing doubts within the U.S. Federal Reserve about the side effects of its stimulus programme and the prospect of more budget battles in Washington curbed investor appetite for riskier assets.

Investors netted profits on oil after prices rose earlier this week as the U.S. Congress approved a fiscal deal that averted economic calamity. Further talks in Washington next month to tackle the country's debt ceiling and signs of hesitation within the Fed about more increases to the central bank's $2.9 trillion balance sheet weighed on prices.

Brent crude for February delivery had dropped 75 cents to $111.39 a barrel by 0219 GMT, although it is set to post a second straight week of gains. U.S. crude was down 63 cents at $92.29, but on track for a fourth weekly rise.

"Most people do not want to take further risks in equities and commodities if the QE (quantitative easing) programme is not going to continue beyond 2013," said Tetsu Emori, a commodities fund manager at Astmax Investments in Tokyo.

While the Fed said it would keep buying bonds to boost the economy over coming months, December meeting minutes showed that some officials are increasingly concerned about the programme's potential risk to financial markets.

Several officials thought it would be appropriate to slow or stop asset purchases well before the end of 2013, the minutes showed.

The Fed's asset buying policy has been a crucial factor underpinning investor risk appetite, which buckled after the minutes were released. Global equities fell and the U.S. dollar gained, making dollar-denominated oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.

DATA EYED

Yet oil could get a boost later on Friday if jobs and oil inventory data from the United States affirms that the world's largest economy and oil consumer is on track for recovery.

Thursday's data from the American Petroleum Institute showed a surprising large drop of 12 million barrels in crude inventories in the week to Dec. 28. Analysts were expecting a 900,000 barrel draw. Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, is due later on Friday.

"That's a very good number," Astmax's Emori said, adding that market sentiment will be positive if the EIA data follows the API's.

The U.S. government will also release non-farm payroll data, a key economic indicator that could offer further evidence of underlying strength in the economy as 2012 ended. The latest jobs data showed that private-sector employers shrugged off the looming budget crisis and stepped up hiring in December.

(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Joseph Radford)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.