Oil prices rose above $ 73 a barrel on Monday as investors looked to a slew of US corporate earnings reports this week for signs of economic recovery.

Benchmark crude for November delivery was up $ 1.38 cents at $ 73.15 in afternoon European electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 8 cents to $ 71.77 on Friday.

“Once again, the main driving factors were renewed optimism on the economy,” wrote Vienna’s JBC Energy in its daily newsletter about the upward trend of the past few days.

Crude investors will be eyeing third quarter company results and forecasts for the rest of the year for clues about the strength of the US 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 per cent from this year.

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

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