Crude prices rose to nearly $98 per barrel Thursday, with oil markets being driven by hopes that the Federal Reserve is leaning toward action to help the U.S. economy's stalled recovery.

Benchmark crude for October delivery rose 66 cents in midday trading in London to $97.92 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 42 cents to finish at $97.26 per barrel in New York on Wednesday.

Brent crude also rose, up 99 cents to $115.91 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Minutes from the Fed's July meeting suggested its members were prepared to take new steps to boost the U.S. economy.

The minutes show that Fed officials spoke with increased urgency about the need to provide more help to the economy unless it improved significantly. But there were no specific details about what steps might be taken or when.

Oil prices have risen about $8 per barrel since Aug. 1, partly on hopes that the U.S., Europe and China would do more to increase growth in their respective economies. Slower growth cuts into the demand for oil and other energy products.

In other futures trading on the Nymex, heating oil rose 2 cents to $3.16 per gallon. Gasoline futures rose 4 cents to $2.9739. Natural gas was down 1 cent to $2.81 per gallon.