Oil futures headed slightly higher on Thursday, with global benchmark Brent crude holding ground at its highest price since October 2018, as investors gauged signs of strengthening demand and kept an eye on any potential response to recent price rises by OPEC+.

Oil has been “holding up well in recognition that underlying energy demand continues to rebound as the economy continues to reopen,” Colin Cieszynski, chief market Strategist at SIA Wealth Management Inc., told MarketWatch. “Recent big U.S. weekly [crude supply] drawdowns continue to help provide support as well.”

Also, talk of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, together known as OPEC+, “steadily increasing production is a positive sign as long as supply increases continue to more or less match demand increases,” said Cieszynski. “If OPEC+ continues the same trend of monthly increases into August, the market may take it in stride.”

The OPEC+ group will officially meet on July 1 to review oil production levels.

West Texas Intermediate crude for August delivery CL00, +0.33% CLQ21, +0.33% was up 19 cents, or 0.3%, at $73.27 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after tacking on 0.3% on Wednesday.

The most active September Brent crude contract BRN00, +0.31% BRNU21, +0.31% added 20 cents, or 0.3%, at $74.70 a barrel on ICE Futures Europe. August Brent, the front-month contract, was up 22 cents, or 0.3%, at $75.41 a barrel, after closing Wednesday at the highest level for a front-month contract since October 2018.

Analysts said crude remains underpinned by data showing demand outpacing supply, including a weekly report on Wednesday from the Energy Information Administration said U.S. crude inventories fell by 7.6 million barrels for the week ended June 18. That marked the fifth consecutive decline reported by the EIA. It also pegged last week’s commercial crude oil stocks at a total of 459.1 million barrels, the lowest since the week ended March 6, 2020.

“The continuous draw in inventories reflects tightening in the market as demand ramps up from the likes of the U.S., China and Europe. Thanks to rapid and successful vaccine programs, the reopening of these economies has boosted fuel consumption, draining stockpiles,” said Sophie Griffiths, market analyst at Oanda, in a note.

Domestic gasoline supplies, meanwhile fell by 2.9 million barrels last week, while distillate inventories, which include heating oil, rose by 1.8 million barrels, according to the EIA data on Wednesday.

In Thursday dealings, July gasoline RBN21, +0.22% was flat at $2.27 a gallon, while July heating oil HON21, -0.11% lost 0.1% to $2.16 a gallon.

“The question is whether OPEC+ will allow this to continue when they meet next week. There’s a good chance some countries in the group of oil producers vote to increase oil production,” Griffiths said.

News reports earlier this week said OPEC+ is considering easing production curbs even further in August — adding more supply to the market following their agreement to gradually increase output from May through July.

“OPEC+ is expected to loosen supply, either officially with a higher production target or unofficially with compliance slippage,” said Louise Dickson, oil markets analyst at Rystad Energy.

“While OPEC+ could theoretically go for a nearly 3 million [barrel per day] boost in August and the market could most likely absorb these volumes without destroying price integrity, we see a more conservative 1 million bpd boost in the cards with a monthly 500,000 bpd ramp up, should OPEC+ continue its chorus of caution,” she said in a market update.

Meanwhile, a report released by the EIA on Thursday showed that U.S. natural-gas supplies rose 55 billion cubic feet for the week ended June 18. On average, analysts polled by S&P Global Platts forecast an increase of 63 billion cubic feet in natural-gas stocks.

July natural gas NGN21, +1.11% traded at $3.38 per million British thermal units, up 4.7 cents, or 1.4%. Prices were little changed before the supply data.