LOS ANGELES – Oil futures prices soared Monday to the highest level since October 2008 as belief in the U.S. recovery from the global recession gained strength. The rise was based on long-awaited jumps in vehicle sales, job growth and home sales, analysts said Monday.

Crude oil for May delivery climbed $1.75, or 2.1 percent, to $86.62 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after hitting $86.90. Crude oil futures have increased 65 percent over the past year.

Gasoline futures for May delivery hit an 18-month high.

Retail gasoline prices continued a steady march higher around the nation, according to the Energy Department’s weekly telephone survey of filling stations.

The U.S. average price of a gallon of regular gasoline rose to $2.826 a gallon. A year ago, a typical gallon of gasoline was 79 cents cheaper nationally.

Oil traders were reacting to a flurry of encouraging news during the last few days, including Friday’s Labor Department data showing that U.S. payrolls had risen by 162,000 in March and Thursday’s reports from automobile manufacturers indicating that sales had accelerated in March.


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