Oil was little changed on Tuesday, pressured by declines in European stock markets but supported by expectations that U.S. industry data due later in the day would show a fall in crude inventories.
European .FTEU3 shares fell, dragged lower by weakness in bank stocks as investors braced for results from Goldman Sachs (GS.N) due before the opening of the U.S. stock market.
Fears of a double-dip recession have periodically hit global stock markets over the past few months and slides in equities have soured sentiment toward oil. .EU .N
U.S. crude for August delivery fell 5 cents to $76.49 a barrel by 1108 GMT. The August U.S. crude contract expires on Tuesday. The more liquid September future was trading 2 cents lower at $76.88.
Front-month ICE Brent crude was up 5 cents to $75.67.
Michael Hewson of CMC Markets in London said the oil price was currently very recovery-driven. He added it was dominated by perceptions of whether the global economy is going to double dip.
U.S. crude inventories fell 1 million barrels on average last week, according to a Reuters survey on Monday. The poll also predicted that stockpiles of distillate fuel, including heating oil and diesel, rose 1.6 million barrels, extending the build-up to the eighth straight week.
While the forecasts for a fourth consecutive weekly drop in U.S. crude inventories were supportive, they were countered by bearish predictions of a rise in oil products in the data from the American Petroleum Institute, due out at 2030 GMT.
The U.S. Department of Energy will publish its own oil statistics on Wednesday at 1430 GMT.
Prices have been stuck in a range between $71 and $80 for more than six weeks as volatility related to the European debt crisis has dwindled. A tighter crude market has been offset by weaker U.S. macroeconomic indicators, signaling a slower recovery in the world's largest economy.
Adding some more support for oil, a tropical wave centered around Puerto Rico had a 20 percent chance of becoming the next tropical cyclone of the Atlantic hurricane season in the next two days, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said late on Monday. The season lasts from June to November.
The Hurricane Center has forecast this year's Atlantic storm season may be the most intense since 2005, when hurricanes Katrina and Rita nearly paralyzed the Gulf of Mexico U.S. oil industry for weeks, boosting oil prices.
This year, we are talking about one of the worst hurricane seasons, and if it's going to start, it's going to start shortly, said Peter McGuire, managing director at CWA Global Markets in Sydney.
China overtook the United States last year to become the world's largest energy user, according to a Financial Times report on Monday, citing the International Energy Agency.
China's rise to the top ranking was faster than had been expected in part because the United States has outpaced China in improving energy efficiency measures over the past decade.
But a senior Chinese official on Tuesday questioned the IEA's conclusion that China had overtaken the United States.
The IEA has had a relatively high estimate of China's energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, said Zhou Xian, spokesperson for China's top energy agency. But he declined to give alternative estimates.
(Reporting by David Turner; editing by Christopher Johnson and Anthony Barker)