Oil prices steadied near $79 a barrel today following an industry report that showed a surprise drop in US oil inventories.

For April delivery, US crude rose 3¢ to $78.89 a barrel, while London ICE Brent fell 1¢ to $77.26, reports Reuters.

Prices broke a five-day rally on Tuesday after a drop in US consumer confidence and German business sentiment pulled down commodity prices.

Stockpiles were estimated to have gained 2 million barrels, according to a Reuters poll.

Petrol inventories gained 1.7 million barrels compared with forecasts for a 400,000 barrel increase, while supplies of distillates, including heating oil and diesel, fell 834,000 barrels compared with the 1.6 million barrel decline expected by analysts.

Total has assured its workers that it would not close or sell any French refineries other than its Dunkirk plant for five years, which led the union to end its week-long strike.