Oil rose toward $78 on Thursday as the United States, the world's biggest energy consumer, was expected to return to economic growth, but gains were limited by the weakness of prompt fuel demand.

U.S. crude oil futures rose 28 cents to $77.74 a barrel by 0941 GMT (5:41 a.m. EDT). London Brent crude rose 42 cents to $76.28.

Analysts said investors would focus on economic figures, with oil's weak fundamental picture unchanged. U.S. gross domestic product data will be published at 1230 GMT (8:30 a.m. EDT).

Economists estimate that the government's advance estimate will show GDP grew 3.3 percent in the third quarter, the first quarter to show positive growth since the second quarter of 2008 when the economy eked out growth of 1.5 percent.

The U.S. GDP data will be released today...the market expectation is a 3.3 percent increase from the previous month, oil analysts with Mizuho Corporate Bank wrote in a research note.

Mizuho Corporate cautioned that any moves of the dollar and the equity market could continue to influence oil prices as the recent strength of the greenback and the fall in share prices contributed to much of the slide of oil prices from a one-year high of $82 hit on October 21.

The dollar fell against the euro on Thursday, reversing the recent strength, while European shares were rising. <.EU>

Above all, weak demand for oil is likely to cap any gains in prices that bright economic data may encourage and there are doubts about how sustainable global economic recovery will be.

On Wednesday, official weekly U.S. oil data showed an increase in gasoline inventories. Total oil product demand dropped by about 3 percent from a year earlier.

Another set of data showed sales of new U.S. homes tumbled unexpectedly in September, the first drop in six months.

(Additional reporting by Fayen Wong in Perth)

(Reporting by Ikuko Kurahone, editing by Anthony Barker)