Close to the end of open outcry trading in New York, crude oil futures for February were up 0.76% at $92.34 a barrel, after rising as high as $93.37 earlier in the session.
The commodity is still on course for its second successive weekly decline, but the latest shift in expectations regarding the future of the Fed’s quantitative easing programme raises hopes that crude may be able to break out of the downward trend with which it has been struggling.
Non-farm payrolls increased by an anaemic 74,000 in December, the lowest rate of job creation since the beginning of 2011, and labour force participation sunk close to a 35-year low.
The Fed’s minutes on Wednesday revealed that the FOMC was optimistic about the outlook for the labour market and on that basis was cautiously willing to reduce stimulus at the December policy meeting, despite worryingly cool inflation.
That optimism looks a little misplaced with the aid of hindsight and the Fed is likely to play it safe and wait to see if this is just a one-off hiccup or the start of a more lasting slowdown in the jobs market. The potential for a deferment in further tapers should stoke appetite for commodities and that has helped to support the price of oil today.
The commodity has also benefitted from news that Chinese crude imports rose last month. The General Administration of Customs in Beijing announced today that net imports into China were 13% higher year-on-year in December, and 10% up from November.