WTI Oil Drops for Second Day Amid Signs Gains Are Unsustainable

West Texas Intermediate crude fell for a second day, trimming its first monthly advance since August, amid speculation that recent price increases may be unsustainable.

Futures dropped as much as 0.4 percent after failing to extend gains above the 200-day moving average. WTI has risen 6.6 percent so far this month. Gasoline stockpiles in the U.S., the world’s largest oil consumer, are forecast to have expanded for a fifth week, according to a Bloomberg News survey before government data this week.

“Crude is seeing some resistance around the 200-day moving average, and that’s giving traders a reason not to move too far away from this level,” Ric Spooner, a chief analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, said by phone today. “After recent gains, we are at a level where traders might be comfortable to just wait and see if the news can catch up to the prices. People in the market would want to square these long positions.”

WTI for February delivery declined as much as 38 cents to $98.53 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was at $98.77 at 4 p.m. Singapore time. The contract slid 41 cents to $98.91 yesterday. The volume of all futures traded was about 72 percent below the 100-day average. Prices have increased 7.6 percent in 2013, set for the fourth annual advance in five years.

Brent for February settlement was up 3 cents at $111.59 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The European benchmark crude was at a premium of $12.82 to WTI. The spread widened yesterday for a fourth day to close at $13.

Chart Resistance

WTI’s 200-day moving average is at $98.88 a barrel today, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Futures also halted a rally near this indicator two weeks ago. Sell orders tend to be clustered around technical-resistance levels.

“Before Christmas, we’re seeing some profit taking from the gains earlier this month,’ Ken Hasegawa, an energy-trading manager at Newedge Group in Tokyo, said by phone. ‘‘WTI is trading in a range of $95 to $100, and right now it’s on the high side of that range.”

U.S. gasoline inventories probably rose by 1.1 million barrels in the week ended Dec. 20, according to the median estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg before Energy Information Administration data on Dec. 27. Supplies have climbed the previous four weeks to 220.5 million, said the EIA, the Energy Department’s statistical arm.

Crude stockpiles are projected to have decreased by 3 million barrels, the survey shows.

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