Oil prices rose on Wednesday, underpinned by an unexpected fall in US crude inventories but were still close to multi-year lows as supplies remained abundant and as OPEC lowered the demand outlook for its exports.
Brent crude futures were up 69 cents at $36.81 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were up 63 cents at $36.77.
A day earlier Brent touched $35.98, its lowest since July 2004.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) in a report on Wednesday forecast that demand for its crude would be lower in 2020 than in 2016 as rival producers prove more resilient than expected in a low oil price environment.
It forecast 2020 demand for Opec crude at 30.7 million barrels per day (bpd) versus 30.9 million bpd in 2016 and about 1 million bpd less than it is currently producing.
Opec raised its forecast for tight oil output to 5.19 million bpd in 2020, up from 4.50 million bpd in its 2014 report.
Opec failed to agree on a production ceiling at a recent meeting in Vienna for the first time in decades. Saudi King Salman said on Wednesday the kingdom was concerned about the stability of the oil market, but added that Saudi Arabia remained committed to further exploration activities in the oil and gas sectors. and
In a sign of growing competition for market share among Opec members in Asia, Iraq signed a $1.4 billion deal to supply 160,000 bpd to Indian refiners Reliance and Indian Oil.
Iran is expected to add 500,000 bpd of crude exports next year and Iranian officials have already met with Indian refiners seeking proposals on how to make their crude more competitive.
On Wednesday, Brent traded as low as $36.28 a barrel, flipping WTI from a long-standing discount into a slight premium over the international benchmark for the first time since a short period in November 2014.
US crude inventories fell by 3.6 million barrels last week to 486.7 million, data published by the American Petroleum Institute showed on Tuesday. Analysts had expected an increase of 1.1 million barrels.
"Inventories remain very, very high relative to the previous year and relative to the five-year norm," said Virendra Chauhan, analyst at oil consultancy Energy Aspects.
Since 2010, US petroleum imports have fallen from a peak of almost 14 million barrels per day (bpd) to around 9 million bpd, government data shows.
But as shale output dips and the government eases restrictions on crude exports, the US market could tighten while global supplies swell on sustained high output from Russia and OPEC.
Although no immediate large-scale exports are expected, some US oil will likely flow from the United States into the global market next year.