Crude prices rose Wednesday to near $90 a barrel as a string of positive corporate earnings and an improved U.S. housing report pointed to higher oil demand and drew investors back to the market.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for June delivery was up 47 cents to $89.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 1 cent to close at $89.18 a barrel on the Nymex on Tuesday.
Strong earnings pushed all three major Wall Street indexes -- the Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite -- higher Tuesday. Industry giants such as DuPont Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. reported results that were better than analysts expected. Additionally, housing data showed that sales of new homes increased 1.5 percent in March.
The rise in housing demand is also helping to boost prices, which tend to make homeowners feel wealthier and encourage more spending. That could drive up consumption of energy and prices of fuel.
Investors are now waiting for the latest data on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products. Data for the week ending April 19 is expected to show an increase of 1.4 million barrels in crude oil stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts.
"There are no oil-market-specific reasons for the price recovery," said a report from Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "Indeed, there has even been bearish news from Iraq, which has threatened to leave OPEC if the cartel prevents it from expanding its oil production."
Commerzbank noted that while OPEC now has an overall output target of 30 million barrels a day and individual country quotas are no longer applied, in the long term Iraq is looking to double its current production of 2.5 million barrels a day. Libya, another OPEC country whose oil output was affected by armed conflict, is also looking to raise its production levels.
OPEC is already seen exceeding its daily quota by 500,000 barrels.
Brent crude, which is used to price oil used by many U.S. refiners, was up 62 cents to $100.93 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:
-- Gasoline rose 1.24 cents to $2.7291 per gallon.
-- Heating oil added 1.64 cents to $2.8144 a gallon.
-- Natural gas fell 0.1 cent to $4.237 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Pamela Sampson in Bangkok contributed to this report.
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