SINGAPORE Oil prices climbed on Wednesday, supported by a reported draw in U.S. crude inventories and by firm import data from Japan.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 1.8 percent, or 81 cents, at $44.86 a barrel at 0403 GMT. The October contract expired yesterday at $43.44 a barrel and the front-month has now rolled over to November delivery.
Traders said that the main WTI price driver had been American Petroleum Institute data showing a 7.5 million barrel draw to 507.2 million barrels in U.S. crude inventories, the third weekly stock draw.
Market participants had expected an increase of 3.4 million barrels, according to a Reuters poll.
Official storage data is due to be published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) later on Wednesday, and traders said they were also eagerly anticipating a meeting by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) which might influence U.S. interest rates.
"Wednesday has become 'Big Wednesday' for oil traders, with not only the FOMC but also the EIA crude inventory numbers out… Should they (EIA) follow the unexpected drawdown like the API and we get no FOMC rate hike, oil bulls may well have reason to be cheering after a tough couple of weeks," said Singapore-based brokerage Oanda.
International Brent crude futures were at $46.47 per barrel, up 59 cents, or 1.3 percent, from their last close.
Traders said that Brent was being supported by firm imports from Japan.
Japan's customs-cleared crude imports rose 0.5 percent in August from the same month a year earlier, the Ministry of Finance said on Wednesday.
Japan, the world's fourth-biggest oil buyer, imported 3.38 million barrels per day of crude last month, the data showed.
Overall, however, oil markets remain oversupplied as exporters around the world pump near record amounts.
Oil producers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and also Russia plan to meet in Algeria next week to discuss measures to rein in the oversupply, but analysts said they did not expect significant cuts to production.
"OPEC members will not agree on a production freeze at the end of September at the meeting in Algiers. Political tensions will prevent cohesion, and individual members will continue to protect market share from resilient non-OPEC producers," BMI Research said in a note to clients.
"Even if an agreement to freeze production is reached, this will change very little for the global oil market, given that most OPEC members are already producing close to their peak capacity," it added.
(Additional reporting by Mark Tay; Editing by Joseph Radford and Christian Schmollinger)