Oil prices gain to above $74, optimism rises

Monday, August 24, 2009 | 12:12 p.m. CDT

Oil prices rose above $74 a barrel Monday, helped by rising stock markets and spreading optimism about a global economic recovery.

Expectations that demand for energy will grow were spurred by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who said Friday that the U.S. economy is reviving.

By mid-afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for October delivery was up 55 cents to $74.44 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Earlier in the session, it peaked at $74.41. On Friday, it jumped 98 cents to settle at $73.89, its highest close since October.

In more good news for the U.S. economy, the National Association of Realtors said Friday that home resales posted the largest monthly increase in at least 10 years.

Asian stock markets rallied Monday on the recovery hopes, with Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumping 3.4 percent, while European indexes were also higher, with Germany's DAX gaining 0.6 percent and the FTSE 100 in London up around 0.4 percent.

"(The) market is on the cusp of $75. If it gets there, there is not a hell of a lot to prevent it from going to $80 or $85," said The Schork Report, edited by U.S. trader and analyst Stephen Schork.

Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix in Switzerland said that stability on equity markets and the continued weakness of the U.S. dollar "should remain a supportive line on crude oil."

In other Nymex trading, gasoline for September delivery added 1.65 cents to $2.0121 a gallon and heating oil for September delivery rose 0.64 cent to $1.9113 a gallon. Natural gas for September delivery fell 5 cents to $2.754 per 1,000 cubic feet after tumbling 14.1 cents on Friday.

In London, Brent prices rose 18 cents to $74.37 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

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