U.S. oil futures Feb contract loses $3, hits 'death cross'

Thursday, 2 Jan 2014 | 2:38 PM ET

NEW YORK, Jan 2 (Reuters) - U.S. crude oil futures fell $3 minutes before the close of trading on Thursday, pressured by expectations for a build in inventories at the benchmark delivery point and a cut in fuel demand that drove prices below a key technical level.

That technical move, when the 50-day moving average falls below the 200-day moving average is known as the "death cross" and portends a further drop in prices, technical analysts said.

U.S. crude for February delivery sank to a low of $95.34 a barrel, $3.08 lower than the previous settlement price, after the 50-day moving average of $96.50 crossed below the 200-day of $96.59 on the February contract chart.

"That is a major bearish signal with the moving averages," said Bill Baruch, senior market strategist at iitrader.com in Chicago. "It encourages selling."

(Reporting by Jeanine Prezioso; Editing by James Dalgleish)