Oil Price Soars: Energy futures headed higher, paced by rising prices for crude oil and wholesale home heating oil. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, the April contract for West Texas Intermediate, the benchmark U.S. crude, settled 44 cents higher at $18.72 a barrel, adding to Wednesday’s gain of 13 cents. Contracts for more distant months posted slightly smaller increases. Among other refined petroleum products traded on the exchange, April unleaded gasoline rose to 52.21 cents a gallon from 51.56. Chris Gohler, in the energy group of Elders Futures Inc., said a combination of fundamental and technical factors pushed up crude prices.