Crude oil futures prices ended sharply higher on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The near-month contract for the benchmark grade rose $4.13, or 4.2 percent, to end the day at $102.96 per barrel.
Prices climbed as soon as exchanges opened for the first day of 2012 trading. Commodity prices tend to rise at the beginning of January as investors start the new year with a fresh round of trading. This year prices were driven up by heightened concerns that Iran might try to close the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to oil tankers, if Western nations impose new sanctions.