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Thu 9 Aug 2012 09:00 AM

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Brent stays above $112 ahead of China data

Brent crude for September delivery edged up 8 cents at US$112.22 a barrel by 0441 GMT

Brent stays above $112 ahead of China data
Brent crude for September delivery edged up 8 cents at US$112.22 a barrel by 0441 GMT.

Brent crude stayed above US$112 a barrel on Thursday on hopes of more stimulus from China to support economic growth and fuel demand at the world's second largest oil consumer.

A fall in US crude inventories last week and supply disruptions caused by a storm in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as lower North Sea oil output and tensions in the Middle East also kept oil prices high.

Brent crude for September delivery edged up 8 cents at US$112.22 a barrel by 0441 GMT after rising four straight sessions. US crude was at US$93.65, up 30 cents.

Risk appetite among investors has improved on signs that policymakers from the US, Europe and China could take action to revive global economic growth.

China's central bank has scope to ease monetary policy further and focus on growth after the country's annual consumer inflation fell to a 30-month low in July, analysts said.

"Sentiment has turned around from the end of June on supportive factors such as potential stimulus packages from the Federal Reserve Bank and the European Central Bank," said Tetsu Emori, a Tokyo-based commodities fund manager at Astmax Investment.

"The demand-supply balance is also getting more healthy than several months ago. I don't see any negative factors at the moment."

Investors will scour industrial output and retail sales data from China later on Thursday to determine its outlook for the rest of the year after the world's second largest economy grew in the second quarter at its slowest pace in three years.

The European Central Bank said last week it may again buy government bonds while a top Federal Reserve official said the central bank should launch another bond-buying programme of whatever size and duration is necessary to get the US economy back on its feet.

Oil is also supported by a larger than expected decline in US crude stockpiles, supply disruptions in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, and a fall in Iranian exports due to Western sanctions.

US crude oil stockpiles fell more than expected last week despite rising imports, federal government data showed. Analysts say the shutdown of an Enbridge pipeline reduced supply.

In the North Sea, oil output is set to plunge 17 percent in September due to oilfield maintenance and natural decline while Mexico has closed two of three main oil export ports in the gulf due to high waves caused by Tropical Storm Ernesto.

Oil could gain more support from geopolitical tensions in the Middle East as the Syrian conflict could intensify other tensions and violence in the region and spill into neighbouring Iraq, Barclays analyst Paul Horsnell wrote in a note.

"If supply tightness accompanied by good fundamental data and shocks such as storms, refinery fires and other outages were behind most of the leg up in crude prices so far, in our view, geopolitical developments look likely to take on the baton from this point," he said.

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