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Originally published Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 9:12 PM

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Oil above $72 amid US cold snap, Iran tensions

Oil prices jumped above $72 a barrel Monday in Asia after hitting a two-month low last week, boosted by tensions over Iran's nuclear program and a cold snap in the U.S. northeast.

Associated Press Writer

SINGAPORE —

Oil prices jumped above $72 a barrel Monday in Asia after hitting a two-month low last week, boosted by tensions over Iran's nuclear program and a cold snap in the U.S. northeast.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was up 87 cents at $72.06 a barrel at late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract plunged $1.95 to settle at $71.19 on Friday.

Oil prices fell sharply late last week as concerns over swelling debt levels in Greece, Portugal and Spain and high unemployment in the U.S. cast doubt over the global economic recovery.

Helping crude rebound Monday were expectations of a spurt in demand for crude products like heating oil because of a cold spell in the U.S. and tensions in the Middle East.

Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered Sunday his atomic agency to significantly enrich the country's stockpile of uranium, defying pressure from Western nations to halt its nuclear program.

"This is winter's last hurrah, while Iran's announcement also gives an excuse for investors to buy," said Victor Shum, an energy analyst with consultancy Purvin & Gertz in Singapore.

In other Nymex trading in March contracts, heating oil rose 2.32 cents to $1.898 a gallon, and gasoline was up 1.51 cent at $1.9015 a gallon. Natural gas rose 9.7 cents to $5.61 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In London, Brent crude was up 83 cents at $70.42 on the ICE futures exchange.

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