Commodity Online

NEW YORK: World oil prices surged nearly four percent to $ 104.78 a barrel at the New York Mercantile Exchange after a US energy report showed gasoline supplies fell for a third successive week.

Crude oil for May delivery rose $US3.80, or 3.8%, to $US104.78 a barrel at the 2.30pm close of floor trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices are up 59% from a year ago.

Gasoline stockpiles dropped 4.53 million barrels to 224.7 million barrels last week, the report showed. It was the biggest decline since August. The dollar dropped against the euro for the first time in three days, bolstering the appeal of commodities as a hedge against inflation.

Crude oil supplies rose 7.32 million barrels to 319.2 million barrels last week, the report showed. It was the 11th gain in 12 weeks.

Gasoline for May delivery rose 13.53 cents, or 5.1%, to $US2.7745 a gallon in New York. Futures touched $US2.7836, an intraday record for gasoline to be blended with ethanol, known as RBOB, which began trading in October 2005.

Refineries operated at 82.4% of capacity last week, up 0.2 percentage point from the week before, the report showed. Plants used 87% of capacity during the same week last year. Utilization dropped 1.7 percentage points in the week ended March 21 to 82.2% of capacity, the lowest since October 2005, the department said in last week's report.

Brent crude for May settlement rose $US3.58, or 3.6%, to $US103.75 a barrel on London's ICE Futures Europe exchange. Futures reached a record $US108.02 a barrel on March 14.