The price of oil rose Monday on the prospect of higher demand in the U.S. and escalating tensions in Ukraine.
Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery rose 31 cents to close at $104.05 a barrel in New York. It’s only the second time since September that oil has closed above $104.
Brent crude, a benchmark for international varieties of oil, was up $1.74 cents to close at $109.07 in London. If sustained, the jump in Brent crude, which is used by many U.S. refineries to make fuels, will likely make for higher U.S. retail gasoline prices in the weeks ahead.
The average U.S. retail price of gasoline rose less than a penny Monday to $3.64 per gallon, according to AAA, OPIS and Wright Express. That’s the highest average since July. In Houston Monday, the average was $3.450 a gallon, up from $3.449 Sunday.
The Commerce Department reported Monday that retail sales rose 1.1 percent in March, the best showing since September 2012. The government also doubled its previous estimate for February retail sales. Rising retail sales leads to higher demand for gasoline and diesel used by shoppers and shippers.
Ukraine’s government announced Sunday it was sending in troops to try to quash a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine despite warnings from the Kremlin. Markets have been rattled by concern Western sanctions against Moscow might disrupt Russian exports of oil and gas.
In other energy futures trading in New York:
— Wholesale gasoline rose 2.4 cents to close at $3.038 a gallon.
— Natural gas fell 6 cents to close at $4.560 per 1,000 cubic feet.
— Heating oil rose 4.6 cents to close at $2.979 a gallon.