Crude oil prices extended their rally into the third week of February as U.S. rig activity declined and Middle East violence escalated Monday.
Brent crude oil prices continued their trajectory above the $60 mark, gaining nearly a full percentage point from the previous close to trade near $62 for the April contract. The contract for March expired last week.
Brent prices have experienced a steady increase as last year's weakened crude oil market left most energy companies without the cash needed to continue spending heavily on exploration and production. Calls for international action in Libya, a once-major North African oil producer, weighed on the minds of investors worried Monday about the state of affairs in the Middle East.
Egyptian airstrikes targeted Islamic State targets in Libya in response to mass executions of Coptic Christians.
The government in Kuwait, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, said it was optimistic that oil prices would continue their positive momentum in the second half of the year.
Oil prices began to decline in June as markets shifted toward the supply side in part in response to the increase in production from U.S. shale basins. The North Dakota government blamed the weak market for a decline in the number of rigs deployed in the state, the second-largest oil producer in the country. The rig count as of Monday was at a five-year low.
Oil production in the state has yet to show signs of diminishing as levels in December, the last full month for which data are available, were at an all-time high.
The price for West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, was up modestly at the start of the trading day Monday to fetch $53.10, still in the March contract. WTI prices are up about 19 percent from their January low.