This study investigates the efficiency of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) Division light sweet crude oil futures contract market during recent periods of extreme conditional volatility. Crude oil futures contract prices are found to be cointegrated with spot prices and unbiased predictors of future spot prices, including the period prior to the onset of the Iraqi war and until the formation of the new Iraqi government in April 2005. Both futures and spot prices exhibit asymmetric volatility characteristics. Hedging performance is improved when asymmetries are accounted for. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Jrl Fut Mark 27:61–84, 2007