Oil prices recorded a slight gain today, as investors anticipated the results from a European Central Bank meeting, alongside data from China, to get further indications on the positive demand outlook for oil in the global market.

Brent was boosted by 16 cents at $116.89 per barrel, while US crude increased by six cents to $96.68 reported Reuters.

In the last three weeks Brent crude has increased on positive data that suggests the global economy is making a turnaround, signalling a rise in fuel demand, while supply concerns in the Middle East have also helped to strengthen prices.

However, according to investors, further gains may be capped as increasing inventories in the US hint that supplies are surpassing demand in the world’s top oil consumer.

Crude stocks increased to 371.7 million barrels last week and have been rising to near-record seasonal highs, as a result of higher domestic oil production, which jumped to near 18-year highs.

Investors are now keeping their focus on the change in leadership that is expected in Spain and Italy, along with statements from European leaders, as well as results from the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting.

Analysts expect ECB to hold interest rates and give positive statements on the prospect for the crisis-hit region’s economy, while the impact of the euro’s recent strength will be closely observed by commodity markets.

The Chinese economy increased by 7.9% in the fourth quarter, while the US services sector extended a three-year expansion in January and the employment index rose to a seven-year high.

Oil prices also received a boost from supply concerns in the Middle East, after Tunisia’s ruling Islamists dissolved the government to pacify street riots. The country is strategically located between the major oil producing countries of Algeria and Libya.

Oil supply is also coming under pressure due the ongoing struggle in Syria, and conflict in Egypt, which killed 59 people in January.

Image: Investors are eyeing results from the European Central Bank (ECB) meeting. Photo courtesy of ArcCan.