Oil rebounded to top $74 a barrel on Monday on a weaker dollar, but prices stayed close to last week's six-week lows on bulging U.S. inventories and a lack of hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico.
The market gained support from the weaker U.S. dollar, which makes oil cheaper for holders of other currencies .DXY, and from a firmer start to trading by European equities.
U.S. crude for delivery in October was up 31 cents to $74.13 a barrel by 0856 GMT (4:56 a.m. EDT), having earlier risen as high as $74.30. October Brent crude was up 44 cents to $74.70.
We're still basically trading sideways and close to the bottom of the range, but I don't think we're necessarily into a nosedive, said Christopher Bellew, a broker at Bache Commodities in London.
Demand from developing countries such as China is supportive, and on the bearish side there's fears of weak demand in Western economies.
Oil in New York ended last week at the lowest since early July, after prices touched an intraday low of $73.19. Prices have fallen more than 10 percent from an August 4 high of $82.97.
Even though forecasts are for the Atlantic hurricane season to be the most active in five years, there was little imminent threat of hurricane-related disruptions to oil output or refining in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tropical Storm Danielle formed over the mid-Atlantic on Sunday and could become a hurricane by Tuesday night, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said, but it was headed for Bermuda, posing no threat to oil and gas infrastructure in the Gulf.
The upcoming storm in the Atlantic is expected to deviate north and will again be a storm that will not have any impact on oil assets in the U.S. Gulf, said Olivier Jakob, analyst at Petromatrix, in a report.
Oil this year has traded in a $64.24-$87.15 range as recovering demand has been insufficient to drain ample supplies. U.S. petroleum stocks climbed to a record since weekly records began in 1990 in the week ended Aug 13.
We've broken some short-term support at around $74.50 and the next short-term support would be around $72, Bellew said, referring to Brent crude.
Last week's economic reports included data showing U.S. jobless claims hit a nine-month high and U.S. regional manufacturing contracted for the first time in a year, reviving fears of a double-dip recession in the world's largest economy.
Investors' interest in oil diminished last week. Money managers cut net long crude oil positions on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said on Friday.
(Reporting by Alex Lawler in London and Alejandro Barbajosa in Singapore, editing by Alison Birrane)