Singapore - Oil prices surged in Asian trade on Monday, with Brent crude passing $103 as escalating tensions in Libya fuelled concerns over instability spreading across the oil-producing Arab states, analysts said.
Brent North Sea crude for April delivery jumped $1.13 to $103.65 per barrel, and New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March, gained $1.17 to $87.37 in the afternoon.
"Both benchmarks have really zoomed ahead this morning. The main driver is really the unrest in the Middle East," said Victor Shum, senior principal for Purvin and Gertz energy consultants in Singapore.
He added that fresh violence in Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) member state Libya was igniting fears of instability spreading throughout the key oil-supplying Middle Eastern and North African region.
"Libya is a member of Opec and even though Libya's oil production isn't very significant on a global basis, it's really threatening close to the main suppliers of crude oil to the world, mainly Middle East and North Africa," Shum said.
Intense gunfire was heard early on Monday in the heart of the Libyan capital Tripoli and other quarters of the city as Saif al-Islam Kadhafi, the son of strongman Moamer Kadhafi, warned the nation was on the verge of civil war.
According to Human Rights Watch, at least 173 people have died in Libya since the anti-regime protests broke out on February 15 after similar uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt that ended the long rule of two veteran leaders.