Updated from 2:06 p.m. EDT

Crude futures jumped to a record close Tuesday as more strong data on the U.S. economy emboldened bulls who believe the world faces a chronic energy shortage.

September crude, which set an intraday record at $62.30 on Monday before easing off, closed up 32 cents at $61.89 a barrel, the highest finish for a font-month contract since Nymex started trading the commodity 23 years ago.

Among other factors, a report showing U.S. factory orders remained strong in June kept buyers interested.

Also on traders' screens Tuesday was a report from China's government predicting that oil imports will grow by 3% this year while domestic consumption rises by 6%. The Ministry of Commerce predicted international oil prices will remain strong into 2006.

Meanwhile, the Energy Department is expected to say that U.S. crude inventories fell by 1 million barrels in a weekly report due Wednesday, while distillate stocks rose by 1.8 million barrels. Distillates have risen in 10 straight weeks as refineries work to turn out products like heating oil and diesel.

Bulls jumped into action Monday after Saudi King Fahd died at 84 following a 10-year illness. He was succeeded by his half-brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, who is 81 and generally viewed as friendly to the West.

In corporate news, Chinese oil company

Cnooc

(CEO) - Get Report

formally dropped its $18.5 billion offer for

Unocal

( UCL), leaving the California company in the hands of

Chevron

(CVX) - Get Report

. Cnooc cited the political controversy surrounding its offer.

Rig-operator

Transocean

(RIG) - Get Report

reported a strong quarter Tuesday, saying profit rose by a factor of six to $301.8 million, or 90 cents a share. Adjusted earnings of 38 cents a share were a nickel ahead of estimates.

Shares of the major oil companies traded higher Tuesday, with

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Report

rising 1%,

ConocoPhillips

(COP) - Get Report

adding 2.2%,

Royal Dutch

( RD) adding 1.2%,

BP

(BP) - Get Report

rising 1.3% and Chevron jumping 2%.