| GEO Business|
| Oil prices leap after new rise in US crude inventories|
| Updated at: 0210 PST, Thursday, July 16, 2009|
NEW YORK: Oil prices soared Wednesday, lifted by a drop in US crude inventories that suggested a glimmer of demand in the world's largest energy consumer.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for August delivery, leapt 2.02 dollars to close at 61.54 dollars a barrel.
In London, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in August jumped 2.23 dollars to settle at 63.09 dollars.
The market welcomed the US government's weekly oil report and price gains accelerated in the second half of the session.
The Department of Energy said that American crude oil reserves sank a more than expected 2.8 million barrels in the week ended July 10 as refineries stepped up production.
The data also showed that distillate inventories, including gasoline and diesel fuel, which had increased for months, rose less than expected.
Distillates rose by 600,000 barrels, instead of the average forecast of 1.5 million. By contrast, gasoline inventories surged by 1.5 million barrels, stronger than the 900,000 barrels expected.
"There's dreadful demand and we still have pretty good supplies of everything," said Mike Fitzpatrick of MF Global.
"The inventories report didn't change that picture too much at all." But the market was supported "the inability to put up fresh lows two days ago," he added.
Calyon analyst Christophe Barret said the weekly statistics were more or less in line with expectations.
"Crude oil stocks, in spite of a significant decline over the past few weeks, remain high," Barret said.
The market also digested news that Nigeria's main militant group had declared a 60-day truce in its "oil war" with the government after the release of its leader Henry Okah under an amnesty deal.
The second militant truce in less than a year came into effect just 48 hours after the rebels blew up an oil-docking harbor in Lagos in their first attack outside the main Niger Delta oil-producing region.