Oil rose slightly on Tuesday, lifted by U.S. consumer confidence data and comments from OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia that oil demand has begun to pick up.
Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told journalists ahead of Thursday's OPEC meeting he hoped oil prices would hit $75 a barrel between the third and fourth quarters of this year, well above lows in December below $33 a barrel.
OPEC ministers meeting in Vienna are expected to leave output levels unchanged on expectations prices will continue to rise despite swollen stockpiles and slumping demand.
U.S. crude oil for July delivery rose 5 cents to $61.72 a barrel at 1:32 p.m. EDT. There was no floor trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday due to the U.S. Memorial Day holiday. London Brent crude traded up 49 cents to $60.70 a barrel.
The stock market rose on higher consumer confidence data, pushing oil futures up, said Andy Lebow, broker for MF Global in New York.
A comment from the Saudi Arabian oil minister about prices rising to $75 a barrel later this year is also supportive.
U.S. consumer confidence rose in May to its highest level in eight months, jumping to 54.9 in May from a revised 40.8 in April, the Conference Board said.
The data helped lift U.S. stocks higher, with the Nasdaq <.IXIC> up 3 percent.
The economic crisis has hit crude demand, sending oil prices off record highs near $150 a barrel struck in July, prompting OPEC to agree a series of cuts since September aimed at reducing output by 4.2 million barrels per day (bpd).
Saudi minister Naimi said the cartel was likely to stay the course when it meets on Thursday. But he could not say if there was consensus between all members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Naimi added he hoped oil demand would recover in the second half of 2008, noting there was already a slight uptick in fuel consumption.
A Reuters poll of analysts forecast oil prices will average $52.47 a barrel this year, up from $50.85 in April.
Militant action in OPEC producer Nigeria has also supported prices. Nigerian militants launched a major strike against the oil industry late on Sunday, bombing a Chevron Corp
(Reporting by Matthew Robinson, Robert Gibbons, Gene Ramos in New York; Jane Merriman in London; Fayen Wong in Perth; Editing by David Gregorio)