– Crude Oil finished the month of February above $49 a barrel, marking the first monthly gain since last June when oil prices began a prolonged slide. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, WTI crude oil for April delivery rose 2.65% or 1.27 points to $49.45 a barrel. The sharp increased continued the trend of volatile price fluctuations, as prices have wavered dramatically over the last several weeks. Daily oil prices have moved more than 2% in an up or down direction in 25 of the last 38 trading days, according to the Wall Street Journal. The large swings have caused the CBOE Crude Oil Volatility Index to skyrocket in recent weeks. Oil futures dipped on Thursday to $48.15 a barrel, one day after the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its weekly report that U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 8.4 million barrels last week. The EIA expected inventories to increase by 4.0 million barrels in its weekly forecast. Oil prices moved up slightly throughout the day before the oil services firm Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) released its weekly U.S. rig count during midday trading. The count for oil and gas rigs nationwide dropped by 43 from last week’s total of 1,378. The nationwide right total is also down by 502 in comparison with the count from last year at this time. Following the release, the price for WTI crude oil fell below $48.50 a barrel before quickly rebounding. On the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) Friday, brent crude for April delivery rose 3.61% or 2.19 points to $62.90 a barrel. At the start of the week, brent crude fell below $60 a barrel following comments from the Nigerian oil minister that Opec could consider calling an emergency meeting if prices continued to plunge. Elsewhere, natural gas went up 1.26% or 0.034 points to 2.732. Oil prices have dropped more than 50% since June, the fourth-largest decline for oil ever over a six-month period.