* Brent hits six-week low
* U.S. oil posts first monthly drop in four
* Unexpectedly weak U.S. GDP growth weighs
* Caution ahead of looming U.S. spending cuts
(Updates information about equity markets)
By Gabriel Debenedetti
NEW YORK, Feb 28 Brent crude fell to a six-week
low near $111 a barrel on Thursday, capping a month-end sell-off
that has seen prices fall by almost $8 in two weeks as concerns
have resurfaced about the global economy and the strength of
Despite initially pushing higher early in the session, Brent
eventually succumbed to another wave of selling, dropping below
its 100-day moving average for the first time since January as
traders digested lower-than-expected U.S. gross domestic product
While a stronger labor market reading in the United States
propped up equity markets for much of the day before they ended
flat and offered crude some support, Commerce Department numbers
showed the U.S. economy grew by just 0.1 percent in the fourth
quarter, dampening hopes the recovery is gaining traction.
"The oil market had been unsuccessfully trying to hold above
this week's lows, and the worries about the less-than-expected
GDP number have entered the equation," said Gene McGillian,
analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
Brent crude for April delivery closed down 49 cents
at $111.38 a barrel, having earlier touched a low of $110.87,
the weakest level since Jan. 18. For the month, Brent lost 3.6
percent in February.
The drop took Brent below 100-day moving average at $111.68,
a key indicator of market sentiment closely watched by traders.
Brent's 200-day moving average is at $109.08.
U.S. crude fell 71 cents to $92.05 a barrel, capping
a drop in February after three straight monthly gains. It
dropped as low as $91.57 on Thursday and lost 5.6 percent over
The March RBOB gasoline contract, which expired on
Thursday, rose 2 percent or nearly 6 cents to close at $2.9146 a
gallon after dropping more than 12 cents on Wednesday on
concerns about demand. The April contract, which is a
winter-summer transitional grade, closed slightly higher at
A Reuters poll showed a majority of oil market analysts
expect oil prices to fall slightly this year due to weak demand
in many industrialized nations and improving global supply.
In the monthly survey of 27 analysts, the consensus forecast
was for Brent crude to average $110.10 per barrel in 2013, down
from an average of $111.70 last year. But the 2013 forecast was
up slightly from last month's $109.70.
Market watchers maintained longer-term worries about the
U.S. economy, particularly given the ongoing political deadlock
over the budget and automatic spending cuts known as
Without a deal from the White House and Congress, $85
billion will automatically be slashed from the budget from
Friday, which President Barack Obama warned could shave at least
0.6 percentage point off economic growth.
(Additional reporting by David Sheppard in New York and Simon
Falush in London; Editing by Dale Hudson, James Jukwey, Jane
Baird, Bob Burgdorfer and Marguerita Choy)