The structure of the market is also shifting so that crude prices nearby are higher than prices
Oil steadied around $76 a barrel on Wednesday after two days of losses, as investors awaited weekly US inventory data expected to show refineries running harder to churn out more gasoline.
London Brent crude, seen as a better gauge of global markets than US oil, rose 47 cents to $76.00 a barrel, after falling 76 cents the previous day. It hit a $78.40 peak on Monday, near a record high last August. US light crude rose 45 cents to $74.47 a barrel.
Crude stocks in top consumer the United States are at nine-year highs, but could have fallen by 200,000 barrels last week as refineries ramped up production runs, according to a Reuters poll.
Crude prices are close to record highs because of perceptions that strong global demand is now beginning to have an impact on high oil inventories, especially in the US.
The structure of the market is also shifting so that crude prices nearby are higher than prices further into the future, which typically signals a tighter supply outlook.