Oil prices hover around $68
Benchmark crude for October delivery was up 25 cents to $68.30 a barrel by midday Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract Tuesday lost $1.91 to settle at $68.05.
Oil sank almost $5 a barrel in the first two days of the week on investor concerns a slow global economic recovery this year from severe recession may not justify the big rallies in stocks and commodities since March.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2 percent Tuesday.
Investors were cheered somewhat when the American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that U.S. inventories plunged 3.2 million barrels last week. Analysts had expected the API numbers to drop 1.9 million barrels, according to a survey by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
The Energy Department reports mandatory supply figures on Wednesday, while refiners voluntarily report the API numbers.
There were also signs Tuesday that the U.S. economy is improving.
The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said its manufacturing index rose in August, indicating an expansion for the first time since January 2008. And the National Association of Realtors said pending U.S. home sales rose to the highest level in more than two years.
In other Nymex trading, gasoline for October delivery rose 1.23 cents to $1.79 a gallon and heating oil gained 0.92 cent to $1.77 a gallon. Natural gas jumped 3.2 cents to $2.85 per 1,000 cubic feet.
In London, Brent crude was up 57 cents at $68.30.