|COLUMBUS, Ohio – Oil prices jumped 14 percent on New Year's Eve, capping a year that saw prices soar to unprecedented heights only to give up four years of gains in just five months.
Energy prices began to collapse in July as the world's biggest economies begain to falter.
Gasoline prices have been more than halved from summer peaks above $4 giving consumers some relief, but at the cost of millions of jobs and industrywide cutbacks. Not even gas at $1.35 per gallon in some parts of the country have been enough to spur demand as Americans ride out what could become the worst economic downturn since World War II.
True to a year that has been volatile from the start, crude prices spiked on the final day of 2008, no where even close to wiping away the most severe price declines since crude started trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange in 1983.
Light, sweet crude for February delivery rose $5.57 to settle at $44.60 a barrel on Nymex with trading volumes low.
Like trading for much of the year, there seemed to be no rational explanation for the extent of Wednesday's jump in price, Tom Kloza, publisher and chief oil analyst of Oil Price Information Services
"It ended very much like it began," he said of 2008.