Oil on a roll: Above $72 in choppy trading

Crude prices seesaw throughout the session, extending a choppy week of trade.

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By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com staff reporter

chart_summer_oil2.03.gif

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Oil prices settled more than $1 higher Thursday, reversing directions several times toward the end of a volatile trading week.

U.S. crude for October delivery jumped $1.06 to settle at $72.49 a barrel. Earlier in the session, prices hit a low of $69.83.

Oil prices had risen nearly 10% this week, but it wasn't a steady climb.

In fact, it's been a choppy summer for crude, with prices jumping 15% since Memorial Day.

August has continued the seesaw pattern, but prices are not nearly where they were last summer when crude topped out at a record $145.29 a barrel.

"Unfortunately, you'd have to look back to the 1990s to find a period when oil really wasn't volatile," said Peter Beutel, analyst at Cameron Hanover.

If the oil market remains quiet -- without major stock-market highs, dollar lows or powerful hurricanes -- Beutel said crude prices could plummet back to $58. The "optimal time for a low" is the first quarter of 2010, he said, but it could happen by Columbus Day 2009.

A wild week for crude. Recovery hopes helped push Monday's oil prices to settle at a 10-month high near $75 a barrel, as U.S. stocks briefly hit 2009 records. But crude prices plunged Tuesday, and the failure to cross the $75 threshold shook investors' confidence.

An American Petroleum Institute inventory report released after Tuesday's settle said crude stocks rose by 4.3 million barrels, and a Wednesday supply report underscored the bearish API data, sending prices lower.

Also on Thursday, the government reported gross domestic product slowed at an annual rate of only 1%, beating estimates. In a separate report, both initial and continuing jobless claims fell. To top of page

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