Oil stays above $96 on consumer confidence

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By PAMELA SAMPSON, Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) — Oil prices rose for a fifth straight day of gains Monday, on the back of rising consumer confidence in the U.S. economy.

Benchmark oil for September delivery rose 30 cents to $96.31 per barrel in midday Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 41 cents to end at $96.01 per barrel on the Nymex on Friday.

Brent crude rose 53 cents to $114.24 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary August index of consumer sentiment released Friday showed its highest level since May. Most economists had been expecting a decline.

That combined with surprisingly strong retail sales and housing data raised hopes that the world's No. 1 economy is gaining traction.

Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, said the rally may be nearing the end of its course, as prices "are pushing into what many people would regard as the higher end of the neutral range for oil."

"The market is fairly well covered at the moment in terms of supply capacity," he said. "We are getting to a stage where the risk is starting to look to the downside."

In other energy trading on the Nymex, heating oil rose 0.7 cents to $3.10 per gallon. Natural gas fell 1 cent to $2.71 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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