U.S. oil prices rose to a more than two-week high in a holiday-shortened session on the eve of Christmas on Thursday, as an unexpected decline in domestic oil stockpiles boosted sentiment.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil for delivery in February tacked on 60 cents, or 1.6%, to close the week at $38.10 a barrel. It earlier rose to $38.28, the most since December 9.
On Wednesday, Nymex prices soared $1.36, or 3.76%, after weekly supply data showed that U.S. oil stockpiles fell 5.9 million barrels last week. Market analysts’ expected a crude-stock gain of 1.1 million barrels.
Also Wednesday, industry research group Baker Hughes (N:BHI) said that the number of rigs drilling for oil in the U.S. decreased by three to 538 last week, the fifth decline over the past six weeks.
For the week, New York-traded oil futures surged $3.52, or 9.7%, the biggest weekly rise since early October. The steep gains were likely related to thin year-end trade, which increased volatility and heightened the severity of market moves.
Despite last week’s strong gains, U.S. oil futures are still down nearly 26% in 2015 amid worries over ample domestic supplies. Prices fell to $34.29 earlier this month, the lowest since February 2009.