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Originally published Tuesday, December 22, 2009 at 9:04 AM

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Oil rises to near $75 amid US crude supplies fall

Oil prices rose to near $75 a barrel Wednesday in Asia after a report showed U.S. crude inventories fell last week and a jump in housing sales suggested the world's biggest economy is picking up speed.

Associated Press Writer

SINGAPORE —

Oil prices rose to near $75 a barrel Wednesday in Asia after a report showed U.S. crude inventories fell last week and a jump in housing sales suggested the world's biggest economy is picking up speed.

Benchmark crude for February delivery was up 36 cents to $74.76 at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract rose 68 cents to settle at $74.40 on Tuesday after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries said the 12-nation cartel won't change production quotas, a move widely expected by investors. OPEC leaders called on group members to adhere more closely to current quotas and reduce cheating.

Prices were boosted by signs U.S. oil demand may be picking up. U.S. crude inventories fell more than expected last week, the American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday. Crude stocks fell 3.7 million barrels while analysts had expected a drop of 2.0 million barrels, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

The Energy Department's Energy Information Administration plans to announce its inventory report later Wednesday.

News that November home resales jumped 7.4 percent, above a forecast 2.5 percent, also supported the case for stronger crude demand in the U.S.

In other Nymex trading in January contracts, heating oil rose 1.04 cents to $1.96 while gasoline gained 0.87 cent to $1.90. Natural gas fell 4.5 cents to $5.67 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude for February delivery rose 46 cents to $73.92 on the ICE Futures exchange.

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