Oil prices soared by 89 cents a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Wednesday and broke through the critical $15 barrier to the highest level in almost three months.
Analysts attributed the buying spree to an American Petroleum Institute report that the nation's gasoline stocks had declined for the eighth straight week because of strong motorist demand.
Traders said oil prices also were bolstered by reports that an Iraqi air strike had damaged Tehran's 200,000-barrel-a-day refinery in a sharp escalation of the 6-year-old war between the OPEC nations.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate--the benchmark U.S. crude for immediate delivery--jumped 89 cents to $15.21 a barrel. It was the highest close since the crude finished at $16.01 a barrel on Feb. 14.