Oil prices rose above $75 a barrel Wednesday, as geopolitical concerns escalated.
A glitch at a Texas refinery on Monday heightened the market's concern about motor-fuel supplies at a time when demand continues to rise in spite of soaring prices. The start of a new fiscal quarter also brought more speculative money into the market, brokers said.
Light sweet crude for August delivery surged $1.17 cents to $75.10 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where gasoline futures climbed 5.22 cents to $2.27 a gallon. The last time front-month oil futures settled above $75 was on April 21, when an all-time intraday high of $75.35 was set.
North Korea defied stern warnings from the United States and Japan to launch six missiles early Wednesday, including a long-range Taepodong-2, which failed shortly after takeoff. Later Wednesday, the communist nation fired a seventh missile.
While the news was unlikely to have any real impact on supply, it adds to uncertainties about the global political situation, analysts and traders said. Markets already have been jittery about Iran's nuclear program and violence in Nigeria and the Middle East.
Iran postponed by a day its talks with the European Union on a package of incentives designed to defuse the standoff over Tehran's atomic program, the EU said Wednesday.
In London, Brent crude futures rose 55 cents to $73.06 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
The Department of Energy is scheduled to release its weekly petroleum report Thursday, a day later than usual due to the Independence Day holiday.