OPEC upheaval delivers a broadside to major energy companies as oil prices plunge sharply

Energy Associated Press

A decision by OPEC not to cut oil production is hammering major energy companies in the U.S. and abroad.

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Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil are down more than 4 percent. Britain's BP is down 6 percent. Natural gas producers are getting hit as well. Chesapeake Energy is down almost 12 percent.

Benchmark U.S. crude prices plunged almost 7 percent $68.81 early Friday. If prices fall another 2 percent, less than $2, the cost for a barrel of oil will reach levels not seen since September 2009, when the U.S. was sliding into its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Falling energy prices are already being cited for boosting the confidence of consumers, who are spending a lot less to fill up their cars or heat their homes.