NEW YORK — Oil futures prices tumbled more than $1 a barrel to the $16 level Tuesday, erasing gains of the previous session in what brokers called one of the most unpredictable and heavy days in trading history.
"Yesterday, nobody's life was complete without it (oil), and today they couldn't give it away," said Peter C. Beutel, assistant manager of Rudolf Wolff Futures, a New York commodities firm.
The price for June delivery of West Texas Intermediate, the main U.S. grade of crude oil, fell to $16.04 for a 42-gallon barrel from $17.16 on the New York Mercantile.
On Tuesday, 48 million barrels were traded, about three times the daily U.S. consumption. Traders said it was one of the heaviest volumes in the history of the Merc, which began trading oil futures on March 31, 1983.