Oil sets 10-month high

Crude futures head toward $75 a barrel on recovery hopes.

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PORTLAND, Maine (Reuters) -- Oil prices rallied to a 10-month high near $75 a barrel Monday, part of a broad global rally in commodities and equities markets propelled by expectations for an economic recovery.

U.S. crude rose 39 cents to $74.28 a barrel after peaking at $74.81, the highest intraday price since Oct. 21.

The gains came as world equities markets pushed firmly into positive territory on rising hopes for an economic rebound. Commodities markets have tracked stock indexes closely in recent months as dealers view equities as a lead indicator of economic performance.

Oil dealers said many investors were also using commodities as a hedge against the dollar, particularly oil as OPEC producers work to restrain supply.

"Oil continues to ride a wave that is propelled by a fear of rising inflation and currency devaluation, OPEC members' unusually high level of compliance with production constraints, and a high level of oil importation into China," Mike Fitzpatrick, vice president at MF Global, said in a note.

A report Monday showed implied oil demand in China, the world's No. 2 energy consumer, rose in July for the fourth consecutive month as refiners ramped up activity.

Feeding hopes the recession was waning, reports Monday showed new industrial orders in the euro zone rebounded in June and U.S. economic activity improved again in July.

A string of positive economic data from various countries and rallying stock markets helped lift oil prices by 9.5% last week. Crude is up around 65% in 2009 and may head higher still, according to analysts.

"We could now easily move towards the $80 mark, if the growing enthusiasm about the budding economic recovery continues to dominate sentiment," said Edward Meir, oil analyst at MF Global.

Renewed tensions in Nigeria could also add support to oil prices. Nigeria's main rebel group said on Saturday it would resume attacks against Africa's biggest energy industry next month, overshadowing the surrender of hundreds of arms by rebels in a federal amnesty program.

Oil analysts expect U.S. petroleum inventory data this week to show small declines in crude oil and gasoline supplies and a build in distillates inventories, according to a Reuters poll. To top of page

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