Oil prices mixed; WTI up on US crude supply drop

Oil prices were mixed Friday, with the New York WTI higher on data showing crude supplies unexpectedly shrank sharply in the United States, the world's biggest oil consumer.

New York's main West Texas Intermediate contract, light sweet crude for delivery in February, rose 17 cents from Thursday to close at $93.09 a barrel.

In London trade, Brent North Sea crude for February settled at $111.31 a barrel, down 83 cents.

The New York market found support after the US Department of Energy's weekly petroleum inventories statement, said Bill Baruch of iiTrader.com.

"The crude inventories was a big draw; however the gasoline was a big build," Baruch said.

Crude supplies dived by 11.1 million barrels in the week ended December 28, much more than the 1.0 million consensus estimate of analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires.

Still, US crude supplies were 9.2 percent higher than their year-ago level.

Gasoline supplies rose by a stronger-than-expected 2.6 million barrels, and distillates, which include diesel and heating oil, climbed by 4.6 million barrels.

Investors also digested an in-line US jobs report for December that showed job growth remained too slow to significantly reduce unemployment.

The jobless rate was unchanged at 7.8 percent and a modest 155,000 were added last month, according to the US Labor Department.

Earlier, WTI and Brent prices were sharply lower after minutes of the December US Federal Reserve policy meeting, released Thursday, showed central bank officials were divided over the duration of asset purchases, signaling they could end as early as this year.

"Prices were... driven down following the move by the US Federal Reserve to signal a possible end to fiscal stimulus this year, which has raised concern that the economic recovery may falter," said Inenco energy analyst Gary Hornby.

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