World oil prices jumped by more than $1 a barrel today as traders worried about weak supplies of motor fuel in the US during the country's peak-demand driving season.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in August, leapt by $1.17 to $73.36, after earlier reaching as high as $73.50. In London, Brent North Sea crude for August delivery soared by $1.44 to $72.85.

Data on Wednesday had shown weaker than expected petrol stockpiles  at the beginning of the US driving season, which is when many  Americans fill their tanks and hit the roads for their summer holidays.

Oil prices have climbed this week, supported by refinery disruption and strong energy demand in the US and China, as well as jitters over the Iranian nuclear energy crisis.