RTTNews - Crude oil prices turned sharply higher on Thursday as an encouraging housing report provided a spark for the prospects of energy demand. The rally took prices to a three-week high.

Light sweet crude oil for September delivery dropped to $67.16, up $1.76 on the session. Prices touched as high as $67.49 after earlier hitting as low as $64.40 earlier in the session.

Higher global stocks also improved the overall future economic picture, which could help struggling energy demand. Stocks in the U.S. and Euro saw gains of better than 2%.

A National Association of Realtors report showed that existing home sales rose 3.6 percent to an annual rate of 4.89 million units in June from a downwardly revised rate of 4.72 million in May.

Earlier, a Labor Department report showed that jobless claims rose to 554,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 524,000. Economists had expected jobless claims to increase to 557,000 from the 522,000 originally reported for the previous week.

The dollar fell to a 7 1/2-week low of 1.4290 against the euro before later rebounding near 1.4200. The greenback also recovered after hitting a 3 1/2-week low versus the pound. Commodities usually move opposite the dollar.

The daily gain was the sixth in seven sessions for the front-month oil contract. Oil had dropped for the first time in six session on Wednesday, the first with September as the front-month role.

The Energy Information Administration data released yesterday showed crude oil inventories decreased by 1.8 million barrels in the week ended July 17. Experts were looking for a drop of about 2 million barrels. Total motor gasoline inventories increased by 800,000 barrels last week. The build was in-line with analysts projections.

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