UPDATE 4-Oil falls below $99 on weak China data, Norway
* China June crude imports down 15 pct on year
* Norway government halts oil strike, prevents full shutdown
* Coming Up: API weekly petroleum data 2030 GMT (Updates throughout, previous SINGAPORE)
By Peg Mackey
LONDON, July 10 (Reuters) - Oil fell below $99 a barrel on Tuesday as prospects for demand growth dimmed after Chinese crude imports slowed while supply constraints eased as a Norwegian strike ended.
Brent fell more than $2 during earlier trade in Asia to a low of $98.22 after the Norwegian government intervened in a strike and ordered a last-minute settlement to prevent a full closure of the country's oil industry.
The strike over pensions, which began on June 24, had cut oil production by about 13 percent and pushed oil above $100 on Monday.
By 0921 GMT, Brent was down $1.48 to $98.84, while U.S. crude was off 69 cents to $85.30 a barrel.
"The intervention (by the Norwegian government) means that a major supply disruption is prevented and that production regains the about 250,000 bpd it had lost since the start of the strike," Olivier Jakob wrote in his Petromatrix note.
More bearish news emerged from China, the world's second biggest crude consumer. Imports plunged in June to the lowest this year from a record high the previous month, as refiners cut purchases amid slowing oil demand.
China accounted for more than half the world's oil demand growth last year.
"May data was particularly strong due to strategic stockpiling and this appears to have abated," said Natalie Robertson, a commodities analyst at ANZ, referring to the drop in Chinese crude oil imports for June.
"The initial reaction will be negative because the headline import number doesn't appear that strong, but if you look at it on a historical basis, anything above 20 million tonnes looks supportive."
China is expected to release GDP data later this week that show the weakest expansion in three years. If confirmed, the figures could help support oil as investors expect the government to introduce measures to boost the economy.
Prices could also gain support from a fall in U.S. crude stockpiles. Crude inventories were forecast to have fallen for the third week in a row in the week to July 6 due to lower imports and higher refinery usage, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday. (Additional reporting by Florence Tan in Singapore and Risa Maeda in Tokyo; editing by James Jukwey)
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