Oil prices were driven to a new high for the year today after forecasts pointed to a rebound in global consumption next year.
Benchmark crude for July delivery was up by more than one US dollar to 71.42 in New York trading, adding to gains seen recently as traders speculate that the worst of the economic downturn is over.
The latest rally came after the US Energy Department predicted that oil prices could average at 67 US dollars a barrel in the second half of 2009 - about 16 US dollars higher than the first six months of the year and significantly higher than the 55 US dollars a barrel it forecast a month ago.
The department's Energy Information Administration also said global consumption of oil, which has fallen by nearly two million barrels of oil a day this year, will begin to rebound in 2010 as the global economy recovers.
With oil prices doubling from below 35 dollars a barrel in March, motorists have seen a return of average petrol prices in excess of £1 a litre.
Analysts said investors were also pouring money into the commodity as a hedge against a recent weakening in the US dollar.
Gerard Rigby, energy analyst with Fuel First Consulting in Sydney, said: "I wouldn't be surprised if we're testing 80 dollars in a week or two. The momentum right now is too strong."