Oil prices hovered above $71 a barrel on Wednesday, after rising more than $3 the previous day, as OPEC ministers were expected at their meeting in Vienna to maintain official output unchanged.

U.S. crude for October delivery was up 8 cents at $71.18 a barrel by 5:31 a.m. EDT. London Brent crude rose 12 cents to $69.54 a barrel.

U.S. crude rose by more than 4 percent on Tuesday, buoyed by gold rallying above $1,000 per ounce and by a weaker dollar.

It is completely priced in that OPEC will leave output unchanged, oil broker Christopher Bellew of Bache Financial said.

It is going to be gold, the dollar and equities again that will move the market, he said.

OPEC oil producers are expected to maintain their existing supply cuts since September of 4.2 million barrels per day, to keep prices around $70 a barrel.

Crude prices, although up 50 percent so far this year, are still less than half their peak struck in July 2008, a level that Saudi Arabia said both producers and consumers were happy with.

The producer group will likely call for stricter compliance with existing supply cuts to help drain brimming crude and oil product supplies, near historic highs in the world's two top consumer markets the United States and China.


Later on Wednesday, the market will get its first steer on U.S. crude stocks with numbers from the American Petroleum Institute due at 2030 GMT, followed by the Energy Information Administration's data on Thursday at 1500 GMT. Both have been delayed a day by Monday's Labor Day holiday.

A Reuters poll of analysts showed expectations of a 1.5 million barrel drawdown in crude stocks, a 700,000 barrel increase in distillate supplies and a 1.4 million barrel decline in gasoline inventories.

On the fundamental front, Valero , the biggest refiner in the United States, has decided to sack hundreds of workers and idle several major processing units.

Traders were keeping an eye out as Tropical Storm Fred formed in the eastern Atlantic Ocean on Monday with top winds of 40 mph, but did not immediately threaten any land, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

(Additional reporting by Nick Trevethan in Singapore; editing by Anthony Barker)