NYMEX-Oil stays above $92; eyes on U.S. oil, economic data
SINGAPORE, Jan 4 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures held above $92 a barrel on Friday as investors looked ahead to oil inventories and economic data from the United States for signals about demand in the world's largest oil consumer.
* U.S. crude for February delivery edged down 13 cents to $92.79 a barrel by 0001 GMT, with front-month prices on track to post their fourth weekly rise.
* U.S. crude oil inventories fell sharply last week and imports tumbled, data from the American Petroleum Institute showed on Thursday, as Gulf Coast refiners drew down stocks for end-of-the-year tax purposes. Crude stockpiles across the world's top oil consumer dropped by 12 million barrels in the week to Dec. 28, well over expectations for a 900,000 barrel draw, according to the data. Traders will now be closely watching for data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, due out Friday, for confirmation of the API report.
* Brent crude for February settled down 33 cents at $112.14 a barrel on Thursday on worries about looming U.S. budget battles and signs of growing concern by the U.S. Federal Reserve about buying bonds to spur economic growth.
* Federal Reserve officials are increasingly concerned about the potential risks of the U.S. central bank's asset purchases on financial markets, even if they look set to continue an open-ended stimulus program for now.
* Brent's premium to U.S. crude narrowed in part due to the completion of a major expansion of the Seaway pipeline. The project, aimed at easing the bottleneck at the Cushing, Oklahoma oil hub which has depressed U.S. prices, should be at full rates by the end of next week. The spread between Brent and West Texas Intermediate <CL-LCO1=R> narrowed to just over $19 a barrel on Friday, down from 2012 highs of about $26.
* South Sudan will delay resuming oil exports until at least mid-March even if the new African republic solves all security conflicts with Sudan at a presidential summit on Friday, Oil Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau said.
* Motiva Enterprises on Thursday morning began its third attempt in 30 days to restart a new 325,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) crude distillation unit at its Port Arthur, Texas, refinery, according to sources familiar with refinery operations.
* U.S. Treasury debt prices slid and world stocks reversed course and dipped on Thursday after minutes from the latest meeting of the Federal Reserve's policy committee showed rising concern about the Fed's policy of buying bonds to stimulate growth.
* The euro slipped against the greenback, touching a new three-week low after minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting indicated that while the Fed looks set to continue buying bonds, some policymakers are reticent about further increasing its $2.9 trillion balance sheet.
* U.S. private-sector employers shrugged off a looming budget crisis and stepped up hiring in December, offering further evidence of underlying strength in the economy as 2012 ended.
* The following data is expected on Friday: 1330 GMT U.S. Dec nonfarm payrolls 1500 GMT U.S. Nov Factory orders 1530 GMT U.S. weekly EIA petroleum status report
1930 GMT U.S. weekly CFTC commitment of traders data
(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Chris Gallagher)