UPDATE 5-Oil rises over $109 on Chinese data, growth forecasts

* China's crude oil imports rise to record high in January

* Chinese exports beat expectations

* Cushing crude stocks down 2.5 mln barrels - API data

* OPEC joins US in predicting stronger 2014 oil demand

* EIA oil inventory data due out at 1530 GMT

(Adds OPEC forecast, Libya disruption, updates prices)

LONDON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Brent crude rose above $109 a barrel on Wednesday, buoyed by expectations of strengthening global demand after OPEC raised its 2014 forecast and Chinese data showed oil imports hit a record high.

Crude oil imports by the world's second-biggest economy rose 11.9 percent in January from a year earlier to 28.16 million tonnes, or 6.63 million barrels per day (bpd), Chinese customs data showed.

Also signalling a reversal of its recent economic slowdown, China's exports beat expectations with a rise of 10.6 percent from the year before, while total imports jumped 10 percent.

"The strong data underpins strength in oil markets and across the whole commodity board," Mark Keenan, head of commodities research in Asia at Societe Generale, said.

"The data is so surprising that there's an element of checking whether it's in fact correct at the moment."

Brent crude for March delivery was up 58 cents at $109.26 at 1521 GMT, after closing 5 cents higher in the previous session. U.S. crude was up $1.22 at $101.16 a barrel, after closing 12 cents lower on Tuesday.

Adding to bullish sentiment, OPEC raised its 2014 outlook for world oil demand by 40,000 bpd, becoming the second major forecaster this week to predict higher fuel use.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) raised its world oil demand forecast for this year to 1.26 million bpd, 50,000 bpd higher than its earlier forecast.

U.S. oil was also buoyed by American Petroleum Institute (API) data showing crude stocks at the U.S. oil hub in Cushing, Oklahoma fell 2.5 million barrels in the week to Feb. 7.

The more closely watched weekly stock report from the EIA is due at 1530 GMT.


Chinese crude imports got a boost after PetroChina and Sinopec started operations at the 300,000 bpd Sichuan refinery and the 280,000 bpd Fujian refinery last month, Barclays analyst Sijin Cheng said. The imminent startup of a strategic petroleum reserve site in Huangdao, designed to hold 18.9 million barrels, could also have had an impact, she said.

Gains were capped, however, by expectations that the rise in Chinese crude imports was partly seasonal and could be short-lived.

Commerzbank said seasonal buying before last month's Chinese New Year celebrations might have distorted the data.

"The crude oil processing data will provide further information, though they won't be published until March," it said in a note to clients.

Unrest in Libya also supported Brent crude on Wednesday. Protests have once more shut pipelines from the Wafa field in Libya's west and are threatening to block another line from the El Sharara field. Its production was about 600,000 bpd.

(Additional reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Singapore; Editing by Louise Ireland and Jane Baird)