Brent crude oil increased towards $80 a barrel today on strong US oil consumer data and increased expectations of a production cut by the OPEC at its meeting next week.

Reuters reported that the price of Brent crude increased 30 cents to $79.63 a barrel, while US crude was up 40 cents to $76.25 a barrel.

"Oil prices were also supported by a series of US economic data, which revealed that factory activity surged to its highest level in 21 years."

Ecuador, Libya and Venezuela have already called for production cuts by OPEC.

Iran asked fellow OPEC members to support oil prices and said a reduction in production may not take place.

ABN AMRO senior energy economist in Amsterdam Hans van Cleef was quoted by the news agency as saying: "I hear more and more sounds indicating that markets are expecting a possible cut in OPEC production, from a more balanced view earlier.

van Cleef added: "Even if OPEC cuts production without altering its output target, it is moderately bullish."

Oil prices were also supported by a series of US economic data, which revealed that factory activity surged to its highest level in 21 years.

The US, which is the world’s largest oil consumer, surprised economists as its economy appears to grow quicker than anticipated.

Investors are also monitoring negotiations between Iran and the big world powers about Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The news agency reported that sharp divisions remain on an agreement over the nuclear programme, which could see the deadline for a deal extended from 24 November to March 2015.

Energy