NEW YORK - Oil prices spiked yesterday after the government reported a huge draw of crude oil from US stockpiles. The report was surprising because the demand for energy has been knocked down by the recession.
Benchmark crude for September delivery jumped $3.23 to settle at $72.42 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That contract expires today, and most of the trading has already shifted to the October contract, which climbed $2.74 to settle at $73.83.
If the October contract ends the week at that price, it would set a new high for 2009.
The Energy Information Administration said crude in storage fell by 8.4 million barrels last week. Gasoline held in storage fell, as well.
Investors have been looking for signs that the country would recover its energy appetite. The EIA report, on the surface, would suggest that may have begun. Last week’s drop in crude supplies was the most since Aug. 15, 2008, a month after crude prices peaked above $147 a barrel.
Yet it may be too soon to say that consumers and businesses are using more energy. Crude imports over the past four weeks are down 9.5 percent, compared with the same period last year.
“They didn’t import more because, at the end of the day, we just don’t need it,’’ analyst Stephen Schork said.