Oil prices extend losses

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    NEW YORK – Oil prices fell for a second day, retreating further from recent highs, as Texas energy companies began preparations to restart oil and gas fields shuttered by freezing weather and power outages.

    Brent crude futures ended the session down $1.02, or 1.6 percent, at $62.91 a barrel while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell $1.28, or 2.1 percent, to settle at $59.24.

    For the week, Brent gained about 0.5 percent while WTI fell about 0.7 percent.

    This week, both benchmarks had climbed to the highest in more than a year.

    “Price pullback thus far appears corrective and is slight within the context of this month’s major upside price acceleration,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch and Associates.

    Unusually cold weather in Texas and the Plains states curtailed up to 4 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude production and 21 billion cubic feet of natural gas, analysts estimated.

    US energy firms this week cut the number of oil rigs operating for the first time since November, according to Baker Hughes data.

    Texas refiners halted about a fifth of the nation’s oil processing amid power outages and severe cold.

    Companies were expected to prepare for production restarts on Friday as electric power and water services slowly resume, sources said.

    “While much of the selling relates to a gradual resumption of power in the Gulf coast region ahead of a significant temperature warmup, the magnitude of this week’s loss of supply may require further discounting given much uncertainty regarding the extent and possible duration of lost output,” Ritterbusch said.