Oil price edges back towards $80

LONDON: aOil prices rose slightly on Wednesday as the market awaited a weekly snapshot of crude stockpiles in the United States -- the world's biggest energy consuming nation.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in April gained 27 cents to 79.96 dollars a barrel at about 0930 GMT.

Brent North Sea crude for April climbed 19 cents to 78.37 dollars a barrel.

Traders were turning their attention to an upcoming stockpiles report from the US Department of Energy (DoE).

Analysts polled by Dow Jones expect the DoE report to show that US crude inventories rose by one million barrels last week and that distillate stocks declined by 700,000 barrels.

Gasoline, or petrol, reserves are forecast to have risen by 700,000 barrels, the poll results showed.

A report by the American Petroleum Institute (API) published on Tuesday showed that US crude reserves had risen by 2.67 million barrels in the past week while gasoline reserves increased 909,000 barrels.

Distillate stocks, which include heating fuel, fell 4.07 million barrels.

"I think the crude build-up is certainly bearish so inventories remain high," said Victor Shum, a Singapore-based analyst with energy consultancy Purvin and Gertz.

"The (supply and demand) fundamentals will prevent pricing from being sustainable at the 80-plus dollar level," he said.

Oil prices had closed higher on Tuesday, buoyed by a weak greenback which makes dollar-priced crude cheaper for holders of foreign currencies, pushing up demand, traders said.