Energy stocks outperform as US oil settles at new high

Matthew Lloyd | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The energy sector was the best performing group in the S&P 500 on Wednesday, gaining about 1.4 percent on the day.

The key energy ETF gained about 1.4 percent, while the broader market inched up a little less than 0.3 percent.

In late morning trading, U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures hit a high of $51.90 a barrel, its highest level since Jul. 2015. U.S. crude later settled at $51.60 a barrel, its best settle since July 2015.

Transocean, Halliburton and Newfield Exploration were among the best performers in the sector, gaining about 5 percent, 4 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

The sector is also the top performer so far in 2016, gaining more than 16 percent year to date.

— CNBC's Christopher Hayes contributed to this report.