NEW YORK, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- Crude prices were little changed on Friday after U.S. released a positive job report for December and U.S. weekly crude inventories showed an unexpected sharp decline.
Market sentiment was boosted after the Labor Department's report showed U.S. payroll jobs increased 155,000 in the last month of 2012, following a rise of 161,000 in November. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.8 percent, meeting the expectations of the economists and indicating steady recovery pace of the world's largest oil consumer's job market.
Meanwhile, U.S. crude oil inventories fell 11.1 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 28 to 359.9 million barrels as imports slipped steeply in the week. This was the lowest level since September. Although total oil inventories remained extremely heavy, the surprising steep drop still offered supports to oil prices.
Besides, the European Union said it proposed a time and place for further talks on Iran's nuclear program, but Iran didn't respond. The tension around Teheran's disputed nuclear program kept offering supports to oil prices.
But concerns about the Federal Reserve might slow down monetary stimulus programs this year posed pressure on oil. The minutes of the Fed's December policy meeting signaled that officials of the central bank were increasingly worried about its ballooning 2.9- trillion-dollar balance sheet.
Light, sweet crude for February delivery climbed 17 cents, or 0. 18 percent to settle at 93.09 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. For the week, the U.S. crude benchmark added 2.29 dollars, or 2.52 percent.
However, Brent crude for February delivery dropped slightly by 83 cents, or 0.74 percent to close at 111.31 dollars a barrel, registering a weekly gain of 69 cents, or 0.62 percent.