SINGAPORE (Commodity Online) : Global oil prices remained under $77 in highly volatile Asian trade as equity markets fell across the region while concerns over potential storms on the east coast of US helped the black gold.

Light sweet crude for August delivery was seen trading at $ 76.71 a barrel at 11.30 a.m Singapore time while ICE Brent for September, the front-month contract after August expired on Thursday, gained 1 cent to $76.10 on the Comex.

Asian stocks dropped in early trade Friday as Japan's Nikkei average shed 0.7 percent while South Korea's Kospi shed 0.5 percent to 1,742.22, and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.4 percent at 4,440.60.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index declined 0.08 percent to 20,239.29 and the Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.2 percent to 2.395.31.

Weathermen said two oceanic weather systems, one in the central Caribbean and the other one in the mid-Atlantic had a 10 percent chance of strengthening into tropical cyclones over the next 48 hours.

On Thursday, oil fell after China, which is leading global demand growth as the world's second-largest oil consumer, said annual GDP growth moderated to 10.3 percent in the second quarter from 11.9 percent in the first quarter.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in August, dipped 42 cents to close at $76.62 a barrel while Brent crude for August shed 58 cents to $76.19 per barrel.

U.S. crude inventories fell about 5 million barrels for the second week in a row last week, government statistics showed two days ago.

Earlier, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which pumps 40 percent of the world's crude, forecast Thursday a 1.2-percent increase in global oil demand growth in 2011.

In its latest monthly report, OPEC held its forecast for world oil demand growth for 2010 steady at 1.1 percent, or an extra 0.95 million barrels per day.