It's been an interesting year (2008) for oil and natural gas markets. As of December 22, crude prices have fallen sharply in recent days and several traders were squaring positions ahead of the holiday break. Oil prices tumbled below $40 a barrel Monday as business news indicated a worsening global economic climate and serious deterioration in energy demand. Light, sweet crude for February delivery fell $2.45, or nearly 6 percent, to settle at $39.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude prices have tumbled 70 percent since peaking above $147 in July. Volume was thin as traders sought to close out the worst-ever year for oil futures, which are now down almost 60 percent since January. U.S. crude for February delivery rose on Dec. 23rd by 11 cents to $40.02 a barrel by 7:44 a.m. EST after falling 6 percent on Monday. ICE Brent rose 20 cents to $41.65 a barrel. As far as natural gas is concerned, on Dec. 22, "The combination of strong supply growth and rapidly declining demand has caused an ugly natural gas outlook to turn much worse," Raymond James analyst J. Marshall Adkins wrote in a research note Monday. Manufactures are slashing production, further eroding prices for natural gas that is used to power machinery. Natural gas for January delivery fell 4 cents to settle at $5.294 per 1,000 cubic feet.