London: Oil prices rose over $2 on Thursday, led by Brent which was heading for its second biggest quarterly rise, touching $117.70 per barrel as Middle East supply worries led concerns.
US crude prices rallied to within 18 cents of its year high of $106.95, now the only major technical barrier to a larger move higher, according to analysts.
Oil prices built on early gains after US data showed jobless claims fell to a four-week low and the second lowest since July 2008, after prices had turned higher on unrest in the Middle East near the start of the session.
Brent crude for May was up $2 to $117.13 per barrel at 1359 GMT, within sight of a two-and-a-half year high near $120 on 24 February.
Brent had fallen below $108 in the aftermath of Japan’s 11 March earthquake and tsunami, but it is now on course to finish the quarter over 23% higher.
US crude was up $1.96 to $106.23, heading for a near 16% quarterly gain.
Traders, analysts and investors see a new floor for prices around $100 per barrel, supported by supply risks and economic growth after the most turbulent and volatile quarter for the oil market since the end of 2008.
Nia Williams, Claire Milhench and Alejandro Barbajosa contributed to this story.