US oil prices inched towards $80 a barrel today following the release of a report showing crude oil stocks declined last week, though gains were restricted by an uncertain outlook for energy demand and economic growth.

US light crude oil futures increased by 60 cents to $79.74 a barrel by 9.20am GMT, which is more than Tuesday’s increase of 24 cents, according to Reuters.

London Brent crude increased by 58 cents to $79.55.

According to the American Petroleum Institute’s weekly data issued yesterday, last week’s US crude inventories recorded a steep decline of 4.4 million following a storm in the Gulf of Mexico that interrupted supply.

The International Energy Agency said that oil prices have increased compared to the below-$33 price recorded in December 2008, even though there is a year-on-year drop in global demand for the initial nine months of 2009.