Crude edged up on Monday, with U.S. oil finishing the session modestly higher, as traders mulled the impact of mixed economic and industry data from the United States and China—the world's top two oil consumers—on worldwide demand.
China's annual GDP growth slowed to 7.5 percent in the second quarter of 2013, the ninth quarter in the past 10 that the rate has fallen, official data showed Monday. 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 Fed's "Empire State" general business conditions index rose, indicating expansion in the region's factories.
"We were lower earlier on the disappointing news out of China, but 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 Stamford, Conn.
"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 was flat near $109 a barrel, after falling below $108 earlier. The August contract expires Tuesday. U.S. oil settled up 37 cents at $106.32 a barrel, after hitting session lows under $105 earlier in the day.