Oil prices climbed as high as $48 on Monday, collapsed to the low $40s on Tuesday and remained there for the rest of the week. The fall was precipitated by another round of bad economic news which once again outweighed the prospects of OPEC production cuts. Although OPEC officials maintain that the organization was on track to finish its 4.2 million b/d production cut by the end of January, tanker-trackers say the members are still shipping at least 1 million b/d above that goal.

OPEC’s Secretary General reiterated at the Davos meeting that producers want crude between $75 and $100 a barrel and will not hesitate to cut more production at the March 15th meeting in Vienna, if prices do not increase by then.

The EIA issued a revised estimate showing that US oil demand in November was down by 7.7 percent or 1.5 million b/d, year over year, to 18.9 million b/d.  Demand for gasoline in November was revised down to 8.8 million b/d, the lowest November demand since 2002. Weekly figures for December and January have been showing a small increase in demand since November likely due to the holidays and lower prices.

The possibility of a strike at US refineries this week kept prices firm on Friday.

Natural gas prices fell some more on Friday to close at $4.41 /mbtu. During January, natural gas was down by 21 percent on falling industrial demand.