Oil held above $54 a barrel on Wednesday, supported by news of an unexpected fall in U.S. crude and gasoline stocks, but gains were limited by persistent uncertainty about any economic recovery.

U.S. light crude for June delivery was up 20 cents to $54.04 a barrel by 1131 GMT (7:31 a.m. EDT), having settled 63 cents lower on Tuesday.

London Brent crude was up 16 cents to $54.28.

U.S. crude and gasoline inventories fell last week, the American Petroleum Institute said on Tuesday, down from analysts expectations by 1 million barrels of oil and nearly 3 million barrels of gasoline.

A second set of inventory data, from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), comes out on Wednesday at 1430 GMT (10:30 a.m. EDT), and could bring more support to prices if it confirms what would be the first draw in crude stocks in nine weeks.

Everything seems to be stable, said Tony Machacek, a trader at Bache Financial in London.

There's a sneaking suspicion it's going to take quite a bit to knock down oil prices for the moment.


The market will also look for the results of U.S. government bank stress tests for any signs of an economic recovery that could indicate growth in oil demand.

Equity markets fell after reports that Bank of America needs $34 billion in fresh capital, according to a source familiar with the results of one of those tests.

Most of the 19 U.S. banks being tested intend to hold news conferences on Friday to explain the results of the government's assessments, with about 10 of the 19 banks deemed to need more capital.

Oil has risen from the low $30s hit this winter, driven higher by stronger equity markets, but has failed to settle above $55 a barrel so far this year as the market sees oil fundamentals still weak, with U.S. crude inventories at 19 year highs.

Around 100 million barrels of crude oil and 25 million barrels of products are estimated to be floating at sea on giant tankers as supply outstrips demand.

(Additional reporting by Maryelle Demongeot in Singapore, editing by Keiron Henderson)