UPDATE 1-Brent oil inches down in holiday trade, but stays near $119

Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:54am EST

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(Updates prices, adds Shell oil benchmark reform)

* Trading light due to Lunar New Year holidays

* China demand data continues to support

By Rebekah Kebede

PERTH, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Brent oil futures dipped slightly on Monday in trade thinned by the Lunar New Year holiday, but stayed near a nine-month high near $119 a barrel, supported by stronger than expected demand growth in China.

Brent crude prices hit the nine-month peak on Friday after China's exports and imports broadly surged in January, with oil imports rising to their third-highest daily rate on record.

"(Oil price gains) are happening against a backdrop of an overall moderate improvement in world economic growth outlook and demand," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney.

Brent had dipped 10 cents to $118.80 per barrel by 0400 GMT, after reaching $119.17 per barrel on Friday, the highest since May.

U.S. crude futures fell 11 cents to $95.61 per barrel.

Traders will be closely watching U.S. retail sales and industrial production figures due later this week for further indications of economic growth in the world's largest economy, Spooner said.

But with many Asian markets shut for Chinese New Year, trade is likely to be light this week.

Oil markets could get some support from stormy weather in the heavily-populated U.S. Northeast, where a blizzard dumped up to 40 inches (1 metre) of snow with hurricane force winds, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power.

NEW TERMS

Beginning Monday, new terms of delivery for North Sea crude cargoes will come into effect after Royal Dutch Shell unilaterally amended the terms for cargoes with a May 2013 or later delivery.

The terms set the basis of billions of dollars of oil trade worldwide and Shell said its amendments were an effort to support trading liquidity.

Washington and Tehran may have more time to negotiate around Iran's disputed nuclear programme after news that Iran appears to have resumed converting small amounts of its higher-grade enriched uranium into reactor fuel.

Slowing a growth in stockpiles of material that could be used to make weapons is one of the few ways in which the nuclear dispute could avoid hitting a crisis by the summer.

The ongoing nuclear dispute has sparked supply worries for years. Iran has threatened to block oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the event it is attacked. Some 40 percent of the world's globally traded oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. (Editing by Richard Pullin and Joseph Radford)

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