New York's benchmark light sweet crude oil contract for delivery in June spiked at $41.56 on Friday before easing a little to finish at $41.38, still up 30 cents from the previous day.

The price broke the previous record of $41.15 set in October 1990 in the run-up to the Gulf war. Adjusted for inflation, current prices are still far below the 1990 level, however.

Brent North Sea crude for June delivery rose 27 cents to close at $38.76 in London.

"The relentless rally is continuing on crude oil and gasoline," said Fimat USA market analyst Marshall Steeves.

Security fears

Traders were casting aside promises by Saudi Arabia to open the taps, and instead sweating about the dangerous backdrop to the Middle East oil market, Steeves said.

Exports of Iraqi crude, also, were still lagging at one million barrels per day several days after resistance fighters torched a vital feeder pipeline in the south of the country, oil officials said.

"Concerns have arisen that terrorists may actually target oil production per se and that could really throw a wrench into supply security," Steeves said.

Gasoline futures touched a record $1.42 for a gallon of regular unleaded to be delivered in June. The gasoline contract closed at 1.4095, up 0.96 cents from Thursday.

Steeves said that traders worried about supplies of petrol in the high demand period of summer, particularly because varying state-to-state rules on content made it harder for refiners to meet demand.

The crude oil price could hit $42-to-$43 a barrel in the near term, Steeves said.