Oil dropped the most in a week after the government said the world’s biggest economy shrank at an annual pace of 6.2 percent in the fourth quarter, the most since 1982. Prices also retreated as the dollar strengthened, reducing the appeal of commodities as a store of value.
Crude oil for April delivery fell 58 cents, or 1.3 percent, to $44.68 a barrel at the 2:30 p.m. close of floor trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are up 7.2 percent this month and little changed so far this year.
Futures rose $2.72, or 6.4 percent, to $45.22 a barrel yesterday, the highest settlement since Jan. 26.
Brent crude oil for April settlement declined 41 cents, or 0.9 percent, to $46.10 a barrel on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange.
Oil prices increased earlier this week after a U.S. government report showed a drop in gasoline stockpiles and OPEC members called for further cuts in output.
Ministers from the 12-member the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries will gather on March 15 in Vienna to discuss second-quarter supply. OPEC agreed to three supply cuts in 2008 to halt sliding prices.
The 11 OPEC member with quotas, all except Iraq, cut output 3.8 percent to 25.3 million barrels a day in February, consultant PetroLogistics Ltd. of Geneva said this week.
Gasoline futures for March delivery fell 0.41 cent, or 0.3 percent, to $1.2963 a gallon in New York. Futures settled at $1.3004 yesterday, the highest since Nov. 13.
The average U.S. pump price for regular gasoline rose 0.1 cent to $1.883 a gallon yesterday, the first gain since Feb. 15, AAA, the nation’s largest motorist organization, said on its Web site. Prices have declined 54 percent from the record $4.114 a gallon reached in July.