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Oil falls as uncertainty hits energy markets

BANGKOK (AP) — Oil prices fell Monday following uncertainty about future action from the U.S. Federal Reserve and data showing the U.S. unemployment rate unchanged.

Benchmark crude for February delivery fell 43 cents to $92.66 per barrel at late afternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract closed up 17 cents at $93.09 a barrel on the Nymex on Friday after the U.S. Energy Department's Energy Information Administration reported a much bigger drop in the nation's crude supplies than analysts expected.

Separately, crude stocks fell by about 12 million barrels for the week ending Dec. 28, according to the American Petroleum Institute.

Monday's decline in oil prices follows the release of a transcript of the Federal Reserve's December meeting showing that policymakers disagreed over how long to keep a bond-purchase program in place.

Traders inferred the Fed might shorten the program, which could send U.S. interest rates, and therefore the dollar, higher. That in turn would hurt the price of oil. Oil, which is priced in dollars, tends to fall as the dollar strengthens and makes crude more expensive for investors holding foreign currencies.

"Crude oil prices have struggled to react with conviction one way or the other," said Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC Markets in an email commentary.

Meanwhile, U.S. employers added 155,000 jobs in December, but the growth wasn't enough to reduce the unemployment rate, which remained 7.8 percent last month, the Labor Department said Friday. The rate for November was revised up from an initially reported 7.7 percent.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, fell 22 cents to $111.09 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.7 cents to $2.7576 a gallon.

— Heating oil rose 0.4 cents to $3.0216 a gallon.

— Natural gas rose 3.8 cents to $3.325 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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