The price of oil climbed above $97 a barrel as home prices in the US accelerated and stock markets resumed their rise toward record levels.

Benchmark oil for March delivery rose $1, or 1%, to $97.44 a barrel around midday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Oil has not closed above $97 in New York since 14 September.

Signs of improvement in the global economy are driving the increase in oil prices.

A report Tuesday showed US home prices in November had the biggest year-over-year increase in six years.

That added to evidence showing that the housing market is recovering and outweighed a separate report indicating that higher taxes and an uncertain economic picture are sapping consumers' confidence.

Those were the latest reports in a big week for US economic indicators.

The US government will also this week release the latest numbers on weekly jobless claims, January unemployment and fourth-quarter growth. Meanwhile the Federal Reserve's policy committee is holding a two-day meeting that concludes tomorrow.

US stocks are approaching record levels after a January rally that has pushed the Dow Jones industrial average 6.2% higher this month. The Standard & Poor's 500 index is up 5.3%, its highest level since December 2007.

Brent crude, used to price international varieties of oil, rose 57 cents to $114.05 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.