(Reuters) - Brent crude inched up on Tuesday to trade near $114 per barrel, but gains were capped as investors sought clarity on policies to help the euro zone after the European Central Bank quashed speculation about further steps to contain the debt crisis.
Trading is expected to be range-bound as supply concerns stemming from Middle East tensions and maintenance issues in the North Sea offset signs of weak global demand.
"It has to do more with how much money there is to be managed and whether it's 'risk on' or 'risk off'; the market is reacting more to movements in currencies and stocks," said Ryoma Furumi, commodities sales manager, Newedge Japan.
"Trading could be choppy, it would lack direction and will depend on what new headlines come out" on the economic front, he said.
Brent crude for October delivery rose 34 cents to $114.04 per barrel at 0632 GMT, after swinging in an almost two-dollar range on Monday.
U.S. crude added 38 cents to $96.35 per barrel.
Asian shares edged up while the euro and gold steadied as investors clung to hopes of decisive action by the ECB to ease borrowing costs.
Crude futures cut gains on Monday after the Bundesbank and ECB shrugged off speculation on the form of market intervention the central bank might take to contain the region's debt crisis.
German magazine Der Spiegel said over the weekend that the ECB was considering buying debt issued by member countries if their interest rates became too elevated, but a bank spokesman said it was misleading to report on yet-to-be decided matters.
MIDDLE EAST TENSIONS
Oil prices remained underpinned by supply concerns triggered by escalating conflicts in Syria and Yemen as well as Iran's dispute with the United States and Europe which has led to an embargo on Tehran's crude shipments.
Forces loyal to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad attacked a rebel-held town near the Turkish border, while U.S. President Barack Obama warned that U.S. forces could move against Assad if he deploys his chemical weapons against rebels trying to overthrow him.
Yemen LNG said on Tuesday that an explosion caused by sabotage has hit a gas pipeline feeding the country's only liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal.
Yemen's oil and gas pipelines have been repeatedly sabotaged since anti-government protests created a power vacuum in 2011 that armed groups have exploited, causing fuel shortages and slashing export earnings for the country.
Iran's crude exports dropped to about 1.1 million barrels per day in June and July from more than 2 million bpd at the start of the year, sources have said.
Adding to supply worries, production from key North Sea oilfields is expected to fall by about 17 percent in September after Britain's largest oilfield Buzzard shut and suspended output until mid-October.
"The recovery in North Sea production volumes from the impact of strike action and planned maintenance continues to underwhelm the market," J.P. Morgan analysts, led by Colin Fenton, said in a report.
"Looking forward toward September, the seasonal weakening of refinery demand will likely outpace the lower than expected crude output due to field maintenance."
Traders are also awaiting the weekly U.S. inventory data expected on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Crude oil stockpiles likely rose by 100,000 barrels in the week to August 17 on higher imports and lower refinery runs, according to a Reuters poll of six analysts, with three expecting a build and three projecting a drawdown.?
(Editing by Eric Meijer and Himani Sarkar)