SINGAPORE Crude futures were lifted by a raft of supportive indicators in early trading on Thursday, although some traders warned that physical supply and demand fundamentals did not warrant a strong price recovery at this stage.
International Brent futures LCOc1 traded above $40 per barrel in early trading and stood at $40.07 at 0038 GMT, up 23 cents from the last close and almost 8 percent above lows reached earlier this week.
Front month U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were trading at $38.09 per barrel, up 34 cents from their last close and 8 percent above their April lows.
U.S. crude prices were supported by an unexpected fall in crude inventories, albeit from all-time record highs, last week as refineries continued to hike output and imports fell.
"Oil prices spiked after the EIA data release," ANZ bank said in a morning note on Thursday.
U.S. crude inventories USOILC=ECI fell 4.9 million barrels in the week to April 1, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 3.2 million barrels, according to data from the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday.
In Europe, North Sea oil field maintenance expected next month lent support to Brent futures, which are priced off North Sea supplies.
And on the demand side, manufacturing seems to be recovering from recent weakness, analysts said.
"Global manufacturing PMIs (Purchasing Managers' Index) saw their strongest MoM (month-on-month) recovery in two and half years in March, according to our calculations," Macquarie bank said.
Yet some traders warned that the rise in futures prices might be premature and not supported by physical market fundamentals.
A planned meeting of major oil producers on April 17 to freeze output around current levels, which in most cases remains at or near record highs, would do little to reduce an overhang in production with at least a million barrels of crude pumped every day in excess of demand.
"Absent a tightening in global oil fundamentals we reiterate our recommendation to go long put spread," BNP Paribas said.
A put is a financial instrument that gives a trader the option right to sell an asset like crude futures.
(Editing by Ed Davies)