Oil prices soared by nearly $1 a barrel.

The explosive rally on world oil markets was sparked by reports that OPEC is holding to its production ceiling and that two major French oil firms have agreed to buy the cartel's oil at official prices. On Europe's spot market, where oil is sold to the highest bidder, Britain's North Sea Brent crude jumped 80 cents to $16.60 a barrel. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark U.S. crude for immediate delivery, shot up 96 cents to $17.35 a barrel. On the U.S. Gulf Coast spot market, West Texas Intermediate advanced 70 cents to $16.90 a barrel.

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