Oil prices in New York finished little changed Wednesday on a mixed US inventory report and as Morgan Stanley analysts said they expect OPEC to take action to defend prices.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for December delivery slipped three cents to $74.58 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
European benchmark Brent oil for January delivery fell 37 cents to $78.10 a barrel in London.
US commercial crude stocks rose by 2.6 million barrels for the week ending November 14, according to the Department of Energy. Analysts surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had expected a drop of 1.0 million barrels.
But the report also showed a 2.1 million-barrel drop in stocks of distillates, which includes heating fuel. That was more than the 1.4 million-barrels drop projected by analysts.
Gasoline stocks increased by one million barrels last week. Analysts had pencilled in a smaller gain of 600,000 barrels.
Gene McGillian, broker and analyst at Tradition Energy, said the report was "slightly bearish."
McGillian said there were some signs Wednesday that the oil market may be bottoming out after falling about 30 percent since June.
Analysts cited a note by Morgan Stanley on the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries as giving support to crude.
The investment bank dismissed investor skepticism over the possibility that OPEC will take action at the November 27 meeting to address falling prices.
The cartel's history of unifying to defend prices suggests "OPEC is slow, but not irrational," Morgan Stanley said.
"We believe the question is not whether OPEC will cut, but when?" the note said. "We were pessimistic about material action in November, but now see signs that some action is possible, or even likely, at the November meeting."