NEW YORK — U.S. crude oil futures finished a volatile week Friday with prices falling well below $16 a barrel to their lowest level since Dec. 21.
West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark grade, finished at $15.78 a barrel for delivery in April, down 14 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and oil analysts said the key U.S. grade seemed poised to fall another 50 cents.
"Crude prices could fall to the $15- to $15.50-a-barrel range in the short term. At that point, there may be renewed interest to buy," according to Ray Marchica, oil futures analyst with Cargill Investor Services.
In the cash market, West Texas Intermediate dropped to $15.75 from $15.84 on Thursday.
Friday was the second consecutive session in which crude futures set a low for the year.
"The recent build in U.S. crude oil stocks plus OPEC overproduction continued to weigh on prices," said James Steel, an oil analyst at Refco Inc.
On the futures market, West Texas Intermediate slipped a total of 92 cents a barrel for the week.
Traders said they had been rattled by a sharp downturn Thursday, when prices plummeted 54 cents a barrel to $15.92 in futures trading. They said they were unsure about where prices were heading.
"There is a lot of oil and people are worried about unsold OPEC production," said Edward Krapels, president of Energy Security Analysis Inc.