By CLIFFORD KRAUSSJAN
HOUSTON — Oil prices suddenly spiked more than 8 percent on Friday, in the biggest one-day price move for the volatile commodity in nearly three years. But most energy experts said it was too soon to say whether any meaningful shift was underway.
Traders and energy experts said the sudden move up — after oil prices had plummeted by more than 50 percent since June — could be explained by various factors, including reports that the Islamic State terrorist group was advancing in an offensive near Iraq’s northern oil fields.
The sharp rise came in the final 45 minutes of the trading day, with the West Texas Intermediate benchmark rising just over $3.71 to $48.24 a barrel. The global Brent benchmark rose to above $50 — still a long way from the $100-a-barrel levels energy executives have grown accustomed to in recent years.
The rally came shortly after the Baker Hughes service company reported that the nation’s rig count had dropped by 94, or 7 percent, in the last week, the largest single-week drop since the late 1980s. That leaves 1,223 rigs in operation, the lowest number in three years, and energy executives say another 300 rigs could be decommissioned in the next few months as service contracts expire.
A drop in oil production normally happens several months after rigs are decommissioned, but the Baker Hughes report was another sign that oil companies were responding fast to the global oil glut by cutting their spending.
Chevron, the nation’s second-largest oil and gas producer after Exxon Mobil, reported on Friday that it was dropping its 2015 exploration and production budget by 13 percent. It was the latest in a string of company reports over the last few weeks suggesting that as much as $100 billion in petroleum investments would be cut worldwide this year.
“My gut says the oil price has been artificially low, and I think this is a logical correction from that overreaction,” said Joel Moser, the chief executive at Aquamarine Investment Partners. “It would not surprise me at all that this may reflect a bottom