NEW YORK - Oil prices closed above $65 per barrel yesterday for the first time in six months as OPEC maintained crude-production levels as expected and a pair of reports suggested a slightly brighter economic picture.

Benchmark crude for July delivery added $1.63 to settle at $65.08 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Retail gas prices have shadowed oil prices, ticking higher every day this month. Gas prices are rising not only because of crude but also because refiners, stung by falling demand for gasoline, have cut back sharply on production.

The national average pump price increased 1.5 cents overnight to $2.449 a gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service. Gas is 40.1 cents a gallon more expensive than it was last month, but it's still $1.495 a gallon cheaper than a year ago.

U.S. energy consumption still hovers at its lowest level in a decade, however. *