* China trade, GDP data in focus in January
* Investors await ECB statement after Thursday meeting
* Coming Up: Euro zone economic sentiment; 1000 GMT
By Ramya Venugopal
SINGAPORE, Jan 8 Brent crude futures steadied
above $111 per barrel on Tuesday, trading in a tight range, as
investors opted for caution ahead of key data from China and a
European Central Bank meeting this week.
Investors will be closely monitoring China's trade data for
December on Thursday, as well as fourth-quarter economic growth
numbers on Jan. 18, for confirmation that the world's biggest
energy consumer is on a steady but slow path to recovery.
Front-month Brent futures rose 14 cents to $111.54
per barrel by 0253 GMT after ending mostly steady in the
previous session. U.S. crude inched 6 cents higher to
$93.25 per barrel, after rising 10 cents in the last session.
The outlook for oil prices this year will be coloured by
concerns that global supplies will outstrip demand, said Tony
Nunan, oil risk manager for Mitsubishi Corp in Tokyo.
"The global economy is the big thing for oil prices, and
it's still not clear which way it's headed," said Nunan.
"The big issues are China's growth and how OPEC manages the
The International Energy Agency (IEA) last month forecast
demand in 2013 will rise by 865,000 barrels per day while supply
from non-OPEC countries, will rise by 890,000 barrels per day,
driven by a jump in U.S. shale oil production.
ECONOMY AND DEMAND
In the short-term, however, investors will be focussing on
key economic events due this week.
China's trade numbers due on Thursday may show export growth
rebounded from three-month lows in December, although weak
demand in the United States and Europe, the country's two
biggest customers, may temper the recovery.
Fourth-quarter GDP data due next week may give a brighter
picture. A Reuters poll showed that the economy may have grown
7.8 percent in October-December versus 7.4 percent in the
previous quarter, snapping seven quarters of weaker expansion.
ECB policymakers will meet on Thursday as well and
economists polled by Reuters were split on whether the bank will
cut rates in 2013 after the regional economy shrunk for three
straight quarters last year.
"Although our central scenario is benign, risks are numerous
and we attach a higher probability than usual to one of them
materializing in our projections," Bank of America Merrill Lynch
analysts said in a report on Monday.
Later in January, U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers are
scheduled to meet amid talk that the bank may halt its
quantitative easing in 2013, rather than 2014, sending jitters
Investors will also be awaiting inventory data from the U.S.
due Tuesday and Wednesday.
Commercial crude oil stockpiles may have fallen by 300,000
barrels on average in the week ended Jan. 4 as Gulf Coast
refiners cut imports for end-of-the-year tax purposes, a
preliminary Reuters poll of four analysts showed..
The previous week's data, which showed that imports dropped
by the biggest margin in a decade, had triggered worries of weak
demand and sent U.S. oil prices lower.
(Editing by Richard Pullin)