Oil prices soared above $55 a barrel on Thursday before falling back to earth after OPEC-member Nigeria said the cartel could raise production to rein in runaway prices.

U.S. light crude for April delivery settled up 52 cents to $53.57 a barrel after soaring as high as $55.20, just short of the New York Mercantile Exchange futures record $55.67 hit in late October.

North Sea Brent crude rose 73 cents to $51.95 a barrel after hitting $53.00, the highest level in 17 years of trade on the International Petroleum Exchange.

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