oil soaring

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    Oil prices have hit a fifth consecutive record high, topping $US66 a barrel as robust US economic growth keeps refiners straining to meet demand and friction over Iran's nuclear program jangles nerves.

    US light sweet crude for September delivery charged to an all-time high of $US66.13 a barrel, up 33 cents in early European trade, the highest point since it was first traded in 1983.

    London Brent crude also set another record at $US65.88.

    US petrol supplies have been threatened by a series of refinery shutdowns, increasing fears about a steady decline in stockpiles, which are now nearly 4 per cent lower than a year ago.

    The US economy continued to hold up against soaring oil prices, with economic data showing retail sales up 1.8 per cent last month.

    The spat over Iranian nuclear program also underpinned prices as dealers worried over the impact on supplies from OPEC's second-biggest producer if the United Nations Security Council were to impose sanctions.

    Crude futures in London and New York were 164 per cent higher than the price of futures in August 2002, six months before the war start of the Iraq war.

    Prices then were $US25 per barrel.

    - Reuters/AFP

    Dave R.
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