Oil bounced off early lows to hover around $90 a barrel on Wednesday after some profit-taking from this week's record high, as the market awaited a key rate decision in the U.S. and data on crude inventories there.
There was uncertainty over how aggressive the U.S. Federal Reserve will be in cutting rates to fuel economic growth, although the dollar's drop to a fresh low against the euro showed investors betting on a rate cut on Wednesday.
U.S. oil futures fell 22 cents to $90.10 a barrel by 6:46 a.m. EST, off lows of $88.92, on top of a $4 slide in the previous session. It hit a record high of $93.80 on Monday.
London Brent eased 10 cents to $87.35.
Investors said they expected profit-taking to continue in the absence of any fresh geopolitical factors.
The move to $93-plus levels was driven by speculation, said Badung Tariono, who manages ABN AMRO's Energy fund out of Amsterdam.
If you look at product prices, which is a gauge of refinery demand, they didn't go up by the same magnitude. This shows that the world's sufficiently supplied in terms of crude, he added.
Those views were echoed by the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), whose Secretary-General Abdel Aziz Abdullah al-Turki said the oil market was no longer driven purely by demand and supply factors, but by speculators.
There are those who trade in what are called paper barrels, and this is now five times the real trade, he told reporters in Cairo.
Just as Federal Reserve policy-makers began meeting on Tuesday against the backdrop of a plummeting U.S. housing market, expectations were for a quarter percentage point cut to 4.5 percent.
The rate decision will be preceded by data on U.S weekly crude oil inventories, which traders are expecting to rise by 600,000 barrels, buffering inventories that are running about 6 percent below a year ago.
Analysts also expect a 500,000-barrel decline in distillate stocks and a 100,000-barrel drop in gasoline, a Reuters poll found, despite signs of weaker U.S. consumption.
We are in the low-demand season right now before winter starts, so we will see a build in inventories if demand doesn't pick up, said Tony Nunan, risk manger for Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo.
Rising stocks may give OPEC even more cause to resist pressure to increase production, especially with its agreed 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) rise due to take effect on Thursday.
OPEC President Mohammed bin Dhaen al-Hamli reiterated on Wednesday that the group will always step in to meet supply shortfalls, although he said an output increase was not on the agenda when its members meet for informal talks in Riyadh in mid-November.
An Iranian oil official warned on Wednesday that a bubble in oil prices, created by geopolitical concerns, would burst one day, reiterating that the surge in prices was not because of a lack of supply.
OPEC is not very happy with the existing situation that shows a lack of stability in world oil markets, Javad Yarjani, head of OPEC affairs at Iran's Oil Ministry, was quoted as saying.
The return of Mexican crude oil production also provided some relief as the country, a top-three oil supplier to the United States, will be able to operate its storm-crippled crude oil production as per normal by Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Jiwon Chung in Singapore)