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Oil Prices Fall Again

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 Crude-oil futures fell Friday, erasing earlier gains, and pushing down prices for the week for the fifth straight time.Traders on Friday speculated that Saudi Arabia wouldn’t move to cut production until oil prices fell to $40 a barrel. One is Chris Faulkner, the CEO of Breitling Energy, who said he believes the “panic button” for Saudi Arabia is at $40 a barrel.

Saudi Arabia’s 2015 budget, released on Christmas Day, signaled the country would keep its spending high even as lower oil prices cut into revenue. Bloomberg cited a former economic advisor to the Saudi government as saying the budget assumes $80-a-barrel oil, which to some in the market indicates confidence that prices will recover.

New York Mercantile Exchange-traded February crude CLG5, -1.25%  settled $1.11, or 2%, lower at $54.73 a barrel, its second-lowest settlement of the year, after one hit last week. It fell 4.2% over the week, its fifth consecutive weekly drop, and has plunged more than 28% in that time, the biggest such drop in six years.

London-traded Brent North Sea crude for February LCOG5, -1.20% lost 79 cents, or 1.3%, to $59.45, also its second-lowest settlement of the year. The contract tapped $60.97 a barrel earlier in the day. Brent also logged its fifth consecutive weekly decline, losing 3.1% this week and plummeting 26% over five weeks.

Meanwhile, the slide in natural gas this month has prices flirting with $3 per million British thermal units, as the front-month contract settled at its lowest level in more than two years.

Crude oil futures also closed lower Wednesday, which was broadly blamed on a surprise increase in weekly U.S.crude stockpiles, as reported by the American Petroleum Institute. Writing following the data, Citi Futures analyst Timothy Evans said the drop for the futures was actually “a moderate adjustment, given the sharp 7.3 million-barrel counter-seasonal build in U.S. commercial crude-oil inventories.”

Some of oil’s earlier gains on Friday were credited to increased fighting in Libya, where Islamist militias shelled the country’s biggest oil port, and a state oil company told Reuters that the country has cut output to 352,000 barrels a day.

Russia, meanwhile, may start slashing its oil output next year, due to low prices and a lack of investment in the energy industry, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich reportedly said in an interview with Russia’s TV channel Rossiya 24 on Thursday.