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Oil prices hover around $77 per barrel

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Oil prices rose slightly to near $77 a barrel Tuesday in Asia as crude traders wait for clearer signals on the strength of the global economy and stock markets.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was up 7 cents to $76.61 a barrel at midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 53 cents to settle at $76.54 on Monday.

Oil has traded between $64 and $87 so far this year and has hovered near $76 for the last two weeks amid light summer trading volume. Investors are eyeing a slow U.S. economic recovery and mixed corporate results so far during second-quarter earnings season.

“Investors are confident enough to keep the markets where they are … but not excited enough to push them higher,” Sander Capital said in a report.

Crude traders often look to equities as a barometer of overall investor sentiment. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.6 percent Monday and most Asian stock markets gained Tuesday.

Traders are also keeping a close watch on China, which will likely account for more than half of global crude demand growth this year.

“China is unquestionably the most important influencing factor,” JBC Energy said in a report. “Strong Chinese demand growth has been a stable element in the oil market and even the worst global recession in 70 years did not manage to slow down consumption.”

In other Nymex trading in August contracts, heating oil rose 0.28 cent to $2.0198 a gallon, gasoline gained 1.32 cents to $2.0722 a gallon and natural gas was steady at $4.512 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Brent crude was up 17 cents to $75.79 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.

Source: AP

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