Oil prices edge higher

World oil prices rose slightly on Thursday, buoyed by a lower-than-expected gain in US crude stockpiles and hopes of an interest rate cut by the European Central Bank (ECB), analysts said.

Brent North Sea crude for delivery in June added two cents to $101.75 a barrel in London early afternoon deals.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for June, gained ten cents to $91.53 per barrel.

"Prices are supported by data showing US inventory build-up was less than expected," Tetsu Emori, chief fund manager at Astmax Asset Management in Tokyo, told AFP. "This suggests that demand in the United States is recovering."

The US Department of Energy on Wednesday said that oil stockpiles in the country increased 900,000 barrels in the week ending April 19, fewer than forecasts for a gain of 1.2 million barrels.

Changes in US inventory stocks are closely watched by dealers as they indicate levels of demand in the world's top crude consumer.

Prices were also supported by speculation that the ECB will soon cut interest rates following the release of poor German economic data Wednesday.

"The recent weak data coming out from Europe and the US has also reassured investors more stimulus measures will be taken," said Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore.