Oil prices briefly hit a record at $60 a barrel today amid a flurry of buying that brokers said was difficult to explain, though they cited underlying supply fears...

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WASHINGTON — Oil prices briefly hit a record at $60 a barrel today amid a flurry of buying that brokers said was difficult to explain, though they cited underlying supply fears and speculation as the main factors.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery soared $1.91 to $60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, then retreated to $59.70 in afternoon trading.

“All it tells me is that the trend is still up,” said Tom Bentz, a broker at BNP Paribas Commodity Futures in New York.

It was not the first time the August crude contract traded above $60 a barrel — that happened back in April and again on Monday. But it is significant because August is now the front month contract, meaning that it is now the contract that will expire next and so is the most actively traded.

“It’s mostly due to speculation,” said Mike Fitzpatrick, a broker at Fimat USA in New York. “I don’t see the fundamental support for these prices.”

On Monday, July futures settled at $59.37 a barrel, a record close on the New York Mercantile Exchange, where oil futures have been traded since 1983. The July contract expired Tuesday.