Updated to reflect recent stock and oil futures prices.

On Wednesday, crude futures went above $71 ahead of a crude inventory report to be released by the federal government later.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery is currently up $1.81 to come to $71.70 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Yesterday, the price settled at $69.89 after slipping $1.60 following reports of less than stellar signs of consumer confidence.

Late Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute said crude inventories in the U.S. fell 6.8 million barrels in the week prior. Investors will also take their demand signal cues from today's Department of Energy report detailing crude inventories. Analysts surveyed by Platts expect the Energy Information Administration to report a 2.2 million barrel stockpile drop for last week.

Many oil and energy shares fell with the rest of the market on Tuesday. But shares were gaining in the early going today.

Yesterday, shares of Exxon Mobil ( XOM), ConocoPhillips ( COP) and Chevron ( CVX) slipped 1%, 0.4% and 0.9%, respectively by the closing bell. But after the opening bell this morning, each were changing hands in positive territory, up 1.1%, 1% and 1.3%.

On Tuesday, the three joined 30-some other international oil companies in bidding on the licensing rights to develop certain oil fields in Iraq. But the auction mostly fell apart because of deep disagreements on fee terms between the Iraqi government and the companies. Only one bid, put forth by BP ( BP) and the China National Petroleum Corporation to develop the Rumaila oil field, was accepted and ultimately approved.

Also in on the bidding was Occidental Petroleum ( OXY), which saw its shares gain 1.1% in early trading today.
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