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Oil prices climb on market rallies

LONDON — Oil prices climbed to near $75 a barrel today in European trading, extending big gains from the previous session as global stock markets rallied.

Benchmark crude for August delivery was up 65 cents to $74.72 a barrel at midday London time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Yesterday the contract rose $2.09 to settle at $74.07.

Most major European stock markets advanced today after the Dow Jones industrial average soared 2.8 percent during yesterday’s session in New York, breaking a two-week sell-off. Oil traders often look to equities as a barometer of overall investor confidence and future demand for crude.

Energy prices “continued to hitch a ride on the tails of a wide-swinging stock market,” analysts at Switzerland-based Ritterbusch and Associates said in a report. “The main trading focus in oil has shifted away from the euro and to the equities for the time being.”

Analyists at Petromatrix said drops in U.S. supplies of oil blamed on Hurricane Alex also bolstered prices. However, today’s gains don’t necessarily mean oil prices will continue to increase on a long-term basis, analysts said.

Crude inventories plunged 7.3 million barrels last week, the American Petroleum Institute said late yesterday, more than the drop of 3.5 million barrels forecast in an analyst survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Inventories of gasoline and distillates also fell, the API said.

The Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration reports its weekly supply data later today.

In other Nymex trading in August contracts, heating oil rose 1.44 cents to $1.9931 a gallon, gasoline gained 1.51 cents to $2.0404 a gallon and natural gas jumped 4.7 cents to $4.612 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Brent crude was up 61 cents to $74.12 a barrel on the ICE futures exchange.

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