NEW YORK --- Crude oil rose above $108 a barrel in New York to a record high, spurred by investors seeking an alternative to slumping financial markets, Bloomberg 
reported. Oil in New York surged 80 percent over the past year as the S&P 500 and Dow averages dropped.

China, the second-biggest oil-consuming country, bolstered crude-oil imports by 18 percent in February and stopped overseas shipments.

'Momentum coupled with sufficient fundamental underpinnings, such as the Chinese oil-import data for February, keeps propelling us," John Kilduff, senior vice president of energy at MF Global Ltd. in New York, told Bloomberg. "The grab for hard assets is on due to the lack of confidence in the rest of the markets at the moment."

Crude oil for April delivery rose $2.85, or 2.7 percent, to $108 a barrel at 2:11 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures reached $108.17 a barrel today, the highest since trading began in 1983.

Brent crude for April settlement rose $1.79, or 1.8 percent, to $104.17 a barrel on London's ICE Futures Europe exchange. Futures reached a record $104.35 a barrel today. Brent trading began in 1988, Bloomberg reported.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s forecast for 2009 U.S. crude-oil prices was raised to $105 from $90 a barrel, in a report dated March 6. The oil equity analysts in London said they made the adjustment because non-OPEC production is approaching a plateau while Asian economies spur consumption.

'The perception in the financial community is that the oil market is the one safe harbor," Rick Mueller, director of oil practice at Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Massachusetts, told Bloomberg. 'The speculation that's moving oil higher will eventually undercut some of the safety they seek. As prices rise, the economy will weaken and eventually hit demand."