In early afternoon trading on 14 August, the price of West Texas Intermediate oil was $115.17 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, over $30 shy of the all-time record of $147.27 set on 11 July, but an increase on a new three-month low of $113.80 on 12 August.

The US Department of Energy says US reserves of petrol dropped by 6.4 million barrels for the week ending 8 August, compared with industry forecasts of a 2 million barrel drop.

London-based analysts Global Insight argue the US inventory data is more indicative of weakening demand and poor refining margins than a lack of supply.

“Although the market is looking for a floor [in oil prices], this latest rebound is unlikely to be sustained unless it is backed by more significant supply disruptions,” says Global Insight’s oil analyst Simon Wardell.

Analysts at investment bank Barclays Capital, however, expect the price to again rise above the $120 mark, arguing that damage to the 1 million barrel-a-day (b/d) Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline earlier this month was likely to intensify the risks of another very poor quarter for non-Opec output.

“In such circumstances we see the scope for another sharp leg-down in prices as limited and we expect prices to move back up towards the mid-$120s area over the forthcoming months,” says Costanza Jacazio, research analyst at Barclays Capital .