Oil prices hit reverse gear amid eurozone gloom

Oil prices fell on Thursday, wiping out earlier gains after downbeat news from the European Central Bank (ECB) and on the eve of key non-farm payrolls data in top crude consumer the United States.

Brent North Sea crude for January dived $1.61 to $107.20 per barrel in late afternoon deals in London.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in January recoiled $1.70 to $86.18 a barrel.

"Crude oil extended its losses today on a combination of technical selling and growth concerns after the ECB trimmed its GDP forecasts for the eurozone," said analyst Fawad Razaqzada at trading group GFT Markets.

The Frankfurt-based central bank decided Thursday to keep borrowing costs at a record low level of 0.75 percent, but added that the decision was not unanimous.

ECB chief Mario Draghi also revealed that bank staff had slashed their eurozone economic growth projections for 2012 and 2013 and drawn up the initial forecast for 2014.

"The euro moved notably lower and the dollar correspondingly rose when Mario Draghi said the ECB had 'wide discussion' on rate cuts but decided not to change it," added Razaqzada.

"Investors shrugged off a better than expected US jobless claims number, as well as strong employment data from Australia.

"Ahead of the key non-farm payrolls day tomorrow, traders are showing little signs of concern for exposing themselves to too upside risks."

Traders also took stock of a fresh credit rating downgrade for Greece and official data confirming that the eurozone's economy had contracted by 0.1 percent in the third quarter, sending the 17-nation currency bloc into recession.

Crude futures had earlier rebounded in earlier deals on Thursday, a day after falling on signs of weaker US energy demand.

The market fell on Wednesday after a weekly US government report showed that gasoline or petrol inventories had last week surged by 7.9 million barrels, five times more than the amount forecast by the market.

The political impasse in Washington over avoiding a mandatory fiscal cliff of tax increases and spending cuts in January, that may toss the US economy back into recession, was casting a cloud on sentiment according to traders.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday warned Republicans not to hold the US economy hostage to politics.

Obama and Republican foes accused each other of intransigence as vital hours passed without serious negotiations on the looming crisis.

burs-rfj/arp

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