NEW YORK — Oil prices soared to the highest level in more than two years as violence spiraled out of control in Libya and Moammar Gaddafi's grip weakened, threatening the country's sizable oil exports and raising concerns that violence would spread to other major oil producers in the Middle East.
Benchmark West Texas Intermediate jumped $6.73, nearly 7 percent, to $92 per barrel on the last trading day for the March contract on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Most of the trading already has switched to the April contract, which climbed $5.90, or 5.9 percent to $95.59 per barrel, the highest since Oct. 2, 2008.
Spanish oil company Repsol-YPF said Tuesday it suspended production in Libya. Other oil companies, including Italy's Eni, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, U.K.-based BP and Germany's Wintershall, started pulling out employees. Meanwhile, key Libyan officials resigned and air force pilots defected amid a bloody crackdown on the protests.
Libya holds the most oil reserves in Africa and is the 12th-largest oil exporter at 1.53 million barrels per day, according to the Energy Information Administration.