Crude oil hits fresh record high of US $72.49

Oil prices hit a fresh record intraday high of US $72.49 Thursday after weekly data showed a drop in US gasoline stocks, raising worries that refiners don't have an adequate inventory cushion ahead of the peak summer driving season. Traders also are anxious that US-led efforts to stop Iran, OPEC's second-largest member, from pursuing a suspected nuclear weapons program could lead to a disruption in Persian Gulf supplies. Light, sweet crude for May delivery surpassed the previous intraday record of $72.40, set Wednesday, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price then slipped back to $72.30 a barrel, up 13 cents from Wednesday's record close of $72.17.