Crude Continues Downward Plunge

Oil prices continued to take it on the chin today, with NYMEX crude futures dropping $2 to reach a settlement price of $75.11 for this week. That marks the lowest level that oil prices have reached since mid-February.

For the week, oil prices are down $11.08, a 12.9% decrease over the course of just four trading days. That $11.08 decline continues the momentum of the last several days, pushing the current short-term downturn even higher on the list of all-time largest drops in crude prices. Yesterdays' 3-day drop 0f $9.08 ranked 18th on the all-time list of biggest drops in real dollars. With today's losses, the current 4-day drop is now ranked as the 13th largest in the history of NYMEX crude. On a percentage basis, this 12.9% drop is the biggest since a 13.2% dip in July 2009 and moves into the list of the 75 largest 4-day declines on a percentage basis.

Driving the downward swing of the market is the ongoing Greek debt crisis, which has investors of all breeds spooked. With members of the European Union stepping in to offer financial assistance to Greece, an international financial crisis will likely be averted. The German parliament, as the largest contributor to the Greek aid package, voted today to approve about $28 billion worth of emergency loans, which will hopefully begin to set the Greek ship aright and allay concerns about the spread of financial problems across Europe.

In the natural gas market, prices moved up past the $4 mark again, rising $0.09 to settle at $4.02 for the week. The small rebound in natural gas prices comes after a larger than expected build in inventories yesterday and appears to be driven largely by somewhat positive US unemployment news. According to the Labor Department, US payrolls rose by 290,000 in April, their fastest growth rate in 4 years, even as unemployment increased to 9.9% with thousands of people returning to the job hunt.

The recovery in employment points to a strengthening US economy that will continue to create new jobs and hopefully shake off concerns over the Greek debt crisis - a potentially uplifting trend for both oil and natural gas prices.