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Intercontinental West Texas Crude Trade Drops 52% in January

Intercontinental Exchange Inc., the second-largest U.S. futures market, said U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures volume fell 52 percent in January, compared with a year ago.

Average daily volume of WTI contracts, the grade of oil that sets wholesale prices in the U.S., was 157,027 last month, down from 326,694 a year ago, the Atlanta-based company said in a statement today. Intercontinental’s ICE Futures Europe exchange offers trading in WTI and Brent crude oil, the grade that sets wholesale prices worldwide.

“The fall in volume is indicative of less money flowing into the market,” said Stephen Schork, president of the Schork Group, a consulting company in Villanova, Pennsylvania. “A lot of the funds had a very poor year.”

Claire Miller, an Intercontinental spokeswoman in London, declined to comment.

Intercontinental Exchange’s competitor CME Group Inc., the world’s largest futures marketplace, saw January WTI volume fall 30 percent compared to last year, said Damon Leavell, a spokesman.

Trading was “unusually high” in January 2011 because of investor concern that the Arab Spring uprisings would cut oil supply, Leavell said, a trend that persisted for all of the first quarter last year. Open interest, or the amount of active WTI contracts, was up this year, which typically means volumes will increase, he said.

Total volume at ICE Futures Europe fell 5.4 percent last month, compared with a year earlier. At the three futures exchanges owned by Intercontinental, average volume dropped 5.7 percent, it said in the statement.

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