* China Q2 GDP growth slows to 7.5 pct
* China's implied oil demand up nearly 10 pct in June
* U.S. June retail sales rise less than expected
* Speculators increased net longs in Brent futures -ICE
(Updates with settlement prices; adds data on trading volumes)
By Anna Louie Sussman
NEW YORK, July 15 Crude oil futures edged up
slightly on Monday in thin trade, reversing earlier losses, as
the market digested mixed economic and industry data from the
United States and China, the world's biggest oil consumers.
China's annual GDP growth slowed to 7.5 percent in the
second quarter of 2013, the ninth quarter in the last 10 that
the rate has fallen, official data showed. However, China's
implied oil demand rebounded in June to the highest in four
months as refineries returned from maintenance.
In the United States, data showed retail sales rose less
than expected in June, adding to signs of a slowdown in economic
growth, while a separate report showed the New York Federal
Reserve's "Empire State" general business conditions index rose,
indicating expansion in the region's factories.
"The market's made substantial gains in the last couple of
weeks and it's priced in the three main drivers for the time
being," said Gene McGillian, an analyst at Tradition Energy in
"The Fed isn't going to be stepping back on stimulus, there
was a 20 million barrel drop in crude oil stocks in the U.S.,
and events in Egypt are calming down. Now it's a question of
what force is going to come in and drive prices higher?"
Brent crude front-month rose 28 cents to settle at
$109.09 a barrel, after earlier falling below $108 a barrel. The
August contract expires on Tuesday.
U.S. oil rose 37 cents to end at $106.32 a barrel
after sliding below $105 earlier in the session, following the
release of the U.S. retail sales data.
Trading volume in both contracts was lighter than average,
with U.S. crude volumes 36 percent lower than the 30-day moving
average, and Brent volumes 7 percent lower.
Both Brent and U.S. crude have rallied throughout July as
U.S. demand appeared to strengthen during the summer driving
season, just as production glitches and tensions in Egypt raised
doubts about the reliability of international supply.
Analysts attributed some of the rally to seasonal
In a note from Citi Research, analysts wrote, "The crude
market is currently trading the peak of refinery throughput and
the seasonal trough of North Sea loadings. In other words, this
may be the most bullish point of the year for global crude
Citigroup analysts revised upward its 2013 and 2014 price
forecasts for crude oil, saying the market looked to be in good
shape as refiners emerge from maintenance and global "refining
throughput heads to its summer peaks."
Citi Research raised its 2013 average price forecast for
West Texas Intermediate crude to $95.90 a barrel from $90, and
its 2014 forecast to $91.80 from $83. It raised its 2013 Brent
crude price forecast to $105.3 a barrel from $104, and its 2014
forecast to $97.50 from $93.
Until Thursday, U.S. crude had been outperforming Brent for
nine of 10 sessions, narrowing Brent's premium to U.S. crude
CL-LCO1=R to a 2-1/2 year-low of $1.32 on Thursday. It widened
out to $3.46 on Monday before closing at $2.77.
Dow Jones news wires, citing unnamed sources, reported on
Monday that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting
Countries could cut its 30 million barrel-per-day (bpd)
production by 500,000 bpd in December, which traders said also
may have bumped Brent a bit.
"That may have had a little impact on Brent crude, but it's
a long time until December, and OPEC will often send out trial
balloons by unnamed sources and see how the market reacts," said
Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago.
THE BULLS ARE BACK
Hedge funds and other large speculators have piled in to
catch the upside. Data from the IntercontinentalExchange (ICE)
showed that speculators increased net long positions in Brent
crude oil futures in the week to July 9.
On Friday, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)
data showed money managers boosted their net long U.S. crude oil
futures and options positions to the highest since record
bullish bets were set two years ago.
(Additional reporting by Ron Bousso in London and Manash
Goswami in Singapore; Editing by Marguerita Choy)