Oil pares gains

Crude prices settle higher, but down from earlier surge after better-than-expected earnings from Wal-Mart pushed stocks higher.

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NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Oil prices settled slightly higher Thursday, falling from an earlier surge above $71 a barrel after better-than-expected results from retail giant Wal-Mart reinforced hopes for an economic recovery and pushed up stocks.

U.S. light crude for September delivery rose 36 cents to settle at $70.52 a barrel Thursday.

Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) posted better-than-expected earnings on cost cuts, and forecast full year earnings would beat analyst estimates, bolstering hopes that the economic recession in the consumer-driven United States was ending.

Stocks on Wall Street held in positive territory after the report, though gains were limited by U.S. data that showed nationwide retail sales dipped slightly in July and the number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose unexpectedly last week.

Across the Atlantic, gross domestic product in the euro zone's two biggest economies rose by 0.3% each in the second quarter against expectations for a decline of 0.3%.

The unexpectedly bullish news added to sentiment the worst of the deepest financial crisis in decades is over, particularly after the Federal Reserve made its clearest statement yet that it sees the recession nearing an end.

"There's this global good feeling at the moment. It's reverberating through everything, commodity markets equally as well," said CMC Markets analyst James Hughes in London.

Adding some support to oil prices, the National Hurricane Center said on Thursday that the Atlantic may get its first named storm of the year as a tropical wave off West Africa gains strength.

Tropical storms and hurricanes can disrupt operations at offshore platforms and coastal refineries. To top of page

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