Oil prices held above $46 a barrel in Asia today ahead of a report on US commercial crude inventories, a closely watched indicator of demand in the world's top consumer. 

A decline in US drilling activity has supported prices recently, fuelling hopes a fall in production would help ease the global crude supply glut. 

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for November delivery was up 11 cents at $46.37. Brent crude for November advanced 18 cents to $49.43 a barrel. 

The US Department of Energy will release its weekly stockpiles report tomorrow, giving a better idea about demand in the world's biggest economy. 

The report will probably show that inventories rose by two million barrels in the week to October 2, a Bloomberg News survey showed, indicating slowing demand. 

Reports that producer Russia was willing to discuss the global supply glut situation that has been weighing on the market also supported prices. 

Analysts said the return of Iranian oil after it complies with an agreement on curbing its nuclear programme is likely to be part of any talks. 

Oil prices dropping to their current levels and staying here for a prolonged period of time is definitely hurting major oil producers, Russia included, they said. 

Crippling economic sanctions imposed by the West on Iran have restricted the country's oil exports, but its compliance with the terms of a landmark agreement reached in July could see the sanctions lifted. 

Tehran has denied Western allegations it was building a nuclear bomb, saying its nuclear programme was for peaceful purposes.