West Texas Intermediate crude was little changed near its highest closing level in two weeks amid signs of stronger gasoline demand. The benchmark’s discount to Brent shrank to less than $10 a barrel, the lowest in 15 months.
Futures pared an earlier increase of as much as 0.6 percent in New York after Spanish unemployment rose more than economists forecast in the first quarter. The U.S. Energy Department said yesterday that gasoline inventories shrank by 3.93 million barrels last week, the most in a year and a bigger contraction than the 600,000-barrel drop estimated in a Bloomberg survey.
“It looks like the market is seeking to consolidate,” said Andrey Kryuchenkov, an analyst at VTB Capital in London. “Things will get more interesting ahead of the summer driving season as refinery rates gain.”
WTI for June delivery rose as much as 55 cents to $91.98 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $91.63 at 1:16 p.m. London time. The volume of all futures traded was 1.8 percent below the 100-day average. The contract climbed $2.25 to $91.43 a barrel yesterday, the highest settlement since April 11. Prices are little changed this year.
Brent for June settlement on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange gained 25 cents to $101.98 a barrel. The European benchmark crude’s premium to WTI contracts shrank to as little as $9.94 a barrel today. The spread was last less than $10 a barrel on Jan. 26.
Spanish unemployment climbed to the highest in at least 37 years as efforts to tackle the European Union’s biggest budget deficit crimped growth.
The number of jobless increased to more than 6 million for the first time, climbing to 27.2 percent of the workforce, compared with 26.02 percent in the previous three months, the National Statistics Institute in Madrid said today. That was more than the 26.5 percent median forecast of 8 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
U.S. gasoline stockpiles decreased to 217.8 million barrels in the week ended April 19, according to the Energy Department. Supplies fell for the 10th time in 11 weeks even as imports rebounded and refineries produced more of the fuel.
WTI’s advance may stall along its 200-day moving average, around $91.73 a barrel today, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Futures yesterday halted an intraday climb near this indicator, signaling it is where sell orders are probably clustered. A breach of chart resistance typically means a rally may continue.