- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) — Energy traders rewrote the record books again yesterday, pushing oil futures above $114 a barrel as gasoline and diesel prices struck new highs of their own at the pump.

Light, sweet crude for May delivery jumped as high as $114.08 a barrel shortly after regular trading ended on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That is nearly $2 above an intraday high set last week.

Concerns about insufficient global supply, stoked by a high-profile report by the International Energy Agency that said Russian oil production dropped this year for the first time in a decade, was largely responsible for the surge. Oil prices rose as high as $113.99 a barrel during the regular session before settling at $113.79, up $2.03 from Monday’s record close of $111.76 a barrel.

“In an emotionally driven market like we’ve got now, it just doesn’t take much in the way of a headline to prompt a psychological response,” said Jim Ritterbusch, president of Ritterbusch & Associates in Galena, Ill.

Prices at the pump also charged ahead. Retail gasoline prices rose to a new average national record of $3.386, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Prices were highest in California, where midrange and higher grades are now averaging more than $4 a gallon.

Diesel prices at the pump jumped to $4.119 a gallon, also a record, setting the stage for even higher prices on food and other goods transported by truck, ship and rail.

Prices are widely expected to keep rising as summer approaches. Gasoline futures jumped by nearly 6 cents to finish at a settlement record of $2.881. That is less than a nickel below the all-time intraday high for the benchmark contract that was set as Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005.

“Unfortunately, we do expect the price of gasoline, and probably diesel as well, are going to escalate as long as the price of oil keeps moving higher,” said Geoff Sundstrom, a fuel-price analyst for AAA.

Oil’s recent run above $100 a barrel has been largely attributed to a steadily depreciating dollar, because the weakness prompts investors to seek a safe haven in hard commodities such as oil and gold.

The greenback strengthened marginally against the euro yesterday, but still remains near all-time lows against the 15-nation currency.

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