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Oil Prices Hit 7-Month High

Signs that demand for oil is increasing have sent prices to a seven-month high.

The price of crude oil climbed to almost $72 a barrel during early trading in New York Wednesday.

The price increase comes as the U.S. government says the country's stockpile of crude oil decreased by almost 4.4 million barrels last week, and one day after a U.S. trade association, the American Petroleum Institute, said country's supplies declined because of increased demand.

Investors have also been pushing oil prices higher because of recent economic data that they say shows the global economy is beginning to recover, which will boost demand for energy.

Some officials have warned high oil prices could hurt the chances of an economic recovery but Kuwait's oil minister, Sheikh Ahmed al-Abdullah al-Sabah, said Wednesday the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will not increase oil production unless oil prices hit $100 a barrel.

Meanwhile, Russia says it does not plan to reduce oil production for at least three years.

Russia is the largest non-OPEC oil producer in the world and is second only to OPEC's leading exporter, Saudi Arabia.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said Wednesday rising oil prices are enabling Russian companies to make money. But he also warned future oil production could depend on the amount of money available to find new sources of oil.

Oil giant BP issued a report Wednesday saying global oil reserves fell last year for the first time in 10 years. The report pointed to declining oil reserves in Russia, Norway and China.

Still, BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward says the data confirms there is enough oil "to meet the world's needs for decades to come." He said any problems with oil supplies are "human, not geological."

Oil prices have now more than doubled since falling to nearly $32 a barrel in December.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.