NEW YORK — Crude oil prices rose Friday after the government said the U.S. economy was growing faster than expected.

The 5.7 percent annual growth rate in the fourth quarter was the fastest pace since 2003, according to the Commerce Department. The expansion, which was driven by a jump in exports and business spending on equipment and software, suggested a rise in energy consumption may be around the corner.

So far, however, that hasn't happened. America is still burning less gasoline than a year ago, and its appetite for petroleum products has dropped for four straight weeks, the Energy Information Administration said Wednesday.

"This could be more of a warning signal," Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research, said of the EIA report. The economic growth rate is expected to cool off later this year, Lynch said, and "it's scary to think where oil demand will be then."

Benchmark crude for March delivery added 36 cents to $74 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude for March delivery increased 49 cents to $72.62 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

In other Nymex trading in February contracts, heating oil fell less than a penny to $1.918 a gallon and gasoline futures rose less than a penny to $1.9182 a gallon. The March contract for natural gas gained 9.7 cents to $5.235 per 1,000 cubic feet. (AP)