MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices end 2015 down for second consecutive year

Light, sweet crude prices for February on the New York market gained modestly on Dec. 31, 2015, to settle above $37/bbl, but US oil futures prices ended the year down about 30%. It was the second consecutive year that oil prices fell on the New York market.

The Wall Street Journal reported it’s the first time since 1998 that US prices fell for two consecutive years. Brent crude oil prices in London were down for a third consecutive year, the WSJ said.

The overall US drilling rig count fell 2 units to 698 during the shortened holiday week ended Dec. 31. The total was down 1,113 rigs form the same week a year ago, Baker Hughes Inc. reported (OGJ Online, Dec. 31, 2015).

On international oil markets, analysts and traders watched for any consequence to oil prices while tensions escalated between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic relations with Iran Jan. 3 after Nemer al-Nemer, a prominent Shiite cleric, was put to death in Saudi Arabia during the mass execution of 47 prisoners on Jan. 2. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khammenei responded by saying Saudi Arabia would face divine retribution.

The US State Department said it had been in talks with the Saudis for months about US concerns regarding the planned executions.

Iranian protesters reportedly set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran during a demonstration Jan. 2.

Energy prices

The February crude oil contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange gained 44¢ to settle Dec. 31 at $37.04/bbl. The March contract was up 53¢ to settle at $38.17/bbl.

The NYMEX natural gas contract for February rose 12.3¢ to a rounded $2.34/MMbtu. The Henry Hub gas price was $2.32/MMbtu on Dec. 31, up 8¢.

Heating oil for January delivery increased 2¢ to a rounded $1.10/gal. The price for reformulated gasoline stock for oxygenates blending for January was up 3.7¢ to a rounded $1.27/gal.

The February ICE contract for Brent crude rose 82¢ to $37.28/bbl, and the March contract was up by 80¢ to $37.67/bbl. The ICE gas oil contract for January was $326.25/tonne on Dec. 31, down $5.

The average price for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ basket of 12 benchmark crudes for Dec. 31 was $31.26/bbl, down 28¢.

Contact Paula Dittrick at

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