Oil prices came off near record levels this evening after moving close to $124 a barrel as OPEC  insisted that the market was being driven by speculators, not real demand.

Prices have rocketed by almost a quarter since the start of the  2008 on the back of tightening global supplies and the weak dollar.

This evening, US crude fell $1.39 to $122.14. On Wednesday, it had struck a record high $123.93. London's Brent crude hit a lifetime peak of $122.98 this afternoon before easing to $121.48, down 84 cents on Wednesday's close.

OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri said there was no shortage of crude oil, brushing aside US calls for higher output to dampen prices.

'In recent months, oil prices have become increasingly volatile, mainly driven by financial market developments and the increased flow of speculative funds into oil futures,' El-Badri said in a  statement.

The 13-member Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries produces 40% of the world's oil, with current output at about 32 million barrels per day. Oil prices have crashed through records every day this week.