Oil rises above $72 ahead of US company results

SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose above $72 a barrel Monday in Asia as investors looked to a slew of U.S. corporate earnings reports this week for signs of economic recovery.

Benchmark crude for November delivery was up 44 cents at $72.21 by midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 8 cents to $71.77 on Friday.

Crude investors will be eyeing third quarter company results and forecasts for the rest of the year for clues about the strength of the U.S. economy. Top banks JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. report this week along with Google Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., Intel Corp., IBM Corp., General Electric Co., and Johnson & Johnson.

A more optimistic crude demand forecast by the International Energy Agency on Friday helped boost trader confidence. The Paris-based IEA, which advises oil-consuming countries, said demand will likely reach 86.1 million barrels a day in 2010, up 1.7 percent from this year.

On Sunday, Kuwaiti oil minister Sheik Ahmed Al Abdullah Al Sabah told the state news agency that an oil price range between $60 to $80 a barrel is acceptable _ echoing earlier remarks by Saudi Arabia.

The two Middle Eastern countries are members of the Organization for Petroleum Exporting Countries, which accounts for about a third of the world's oil production.

In other Nymex trading, heating oil rose 1.71 cents to $1.87 a gallon. Gasoline for November delivery gained 1.11 cents to $1.78 a gallon. Natural gas for November delivery jumped 5.2 cents to $4.82 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude rose 48 cents to $70.48 on the ICE Futures exchange.