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Oil prices settle higher again

OIL prices pushed higher again yesterday, as stock markets dipped with mixed signals on the economy.

Benchmark crude for September delivery rose 33 cents to settle at US$68.38 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Oil has rebounded by almost US$10 a barrel this month as stronger economic results from the U.S. and China boosted investor optimism along with better than expected second-quarter earnings results from many companies.

The Dow Jones industrial average has risen about 11 percent in the last 10 days, but was down slightly in yesterday afternoon trading.

The government said yesterday that new U.S. home sales jumped 11 percent in June, the largest amount in nearly nine years.

Sales have risen for three straight months, but the median sales price of US$206,200 was down 12 percent from US$234,300 a year earlier.

The report initially sent oil - and the stock markets - higher.

But even with growing signs of optimism, demand for oil has remained weak.

"Oil can't stand on its own," said Phil Flynn of Alaron Trading. "It's looking at what the other markets are doing."

Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover said oil also has gotten support from refineries running at levels well below years past.

"That's the only fundamental factor for prices to be higher," he said.

In other Nymex trading, gasoline for August delivery rose 1.88 cents to settle at US$1.9347 a gallon and heating oil gained 1.53 cents to settle at US$1.7966.


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