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    Oil Rises with U.S. Spending

    Signs suggest American economic weakness may be easing.

    VIENNA -- Oil prices were near $51 a barrel last week, with upbeat retail reports from some U.S. retailers indicating Americans may be willing to increase spending again, revealed an Associated Press article.

    So far, decor chain Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. and restaurant Ruby Tuesday Inc. reported better-than-expected first quarter results, while teen retailer Hot Topic Inc. said same-store sales rose more than analysts' forecasts.

    Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said its same-store sales, excluding fuel, rose 1.4 percent, short of the 3.2-percent rise analysts were predicting. However, the world's largest retailer said a later Easter was to blame and that April sales are likely to be boosted by the holiday.

    In other news reported by the AP, Wells Fargo & Co. said it expects record first-quarter earnings of $3 billion, easily surpassing analysts' estimates and providing an encouraging sign for corporate profits.

    Benchmark crude for May delivery rose $1.61 to $50.99 a barrel in European electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 23 cents mid-last week to settle at $49.38.

    Still, some traders are skeptical the world's largest economy has turned the corner toward recovery, AP reported.

    "I still have to see more to convince me that the economy is turning around," said Clarence Chu, a trader at market maker Hudson Capital Energy in Singapore. "I see oil trading between $45 and $50 for a while."

    Gasoline demand will likely increase as drivers head out on summer vacations, buoyed by oil prices that have fallen from a record $147 a barrel in July, Chu also told the AP.

    "I don't expect demand will pick up dramatically given the weak economy, but gasoline is now much cheaper compared to last year."

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    -- Average Gasoline Price Tops $2 a Gallon

    -- Economic Recovery Could Fuel Rise in Pump Prices

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