NEW YORK - Oil plunged suddenly Monday afternoon, dropping more than $4 per barrel at one point in a dramatic end to an otherwise quiet trading day in New York,
Benchmark crude fell $2.38, or 2.4 percent, to finish at $96.62 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That's the biggest percentage decline since July 23. Oil plunged below $95 per barrel during the sell-off.
Traders were unsure of the cause of Monday's price drop. Some questioned whether an errant trade or another rumor about a release of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve was to blame.
In this Aug. 29 photo, a man fills his gas tank at a gas station in Lyndhurst, Ohio.
The White House has been considering tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to stem the rising cost of crude and gasoline. A little over a week ago, Reuters reported the Obama administration was considering a release much larger than the 30 million barrels from last year.
Oil rose 2.7 percent last week after getting a boost from the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest plan to boost the U.S. economy. It held to slight gains above $99 for most of Monday.
Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of oil, fell sharply as well. Brent lost $2.91, or 2.9 percent, to $113.77 on the ICE Futures Exchange in London.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.