The price of oil made small gains above $105 a barrel today, ahead of house sales figures that could show further improvement in the US economy.

Benchmark oil for October delivery was up 14 cents to $105.17 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.18 to close at $105.03 last night.

Brent crude was up 41 cents to $110.31 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Experts say there are signs - including falling unemployment claims and rising manufacturing - that demand for oil in the world's largest economy is gaining momentum.

At the same time, the US Federal Reserve is expected to begin phasing out its monetary stimulus measures, which have led to lower interest rates in an effort to boost economic growth. The measures have also motivated investment in oil and other commodities.

Risk premiums linked to the political crisis in Egypt and labour conflicts at key Libyan ports used to ship oil exports have also supported crude prices over the past days.

Egypt controls the Suez Canal and the Sumed pipeline, crucial transport routes between the Middle East and the Mediterranean Sea through which around 4.5 million barrels of oil and refined products are shipped daily.