By Claire Milhench
LONDON, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Oil prices steadied around $112 a barrel on Thursday as sobering production and consumption data from China weighed on the demand outlook, but prices remained elevated due to supply disruptions in the Gulf of Mexico and lower Brent output.
Brent crude for September delivery was down 5 cents at $112.09 a barrel by 0902 GMT. U.S. crude was down 3 cents at $93.32 a barrel.
The oil market bounced in Asian trading following poor Chinese data, which had raised hopes of further monetary easing. But oil prices dipped when London traders focused on the disappointing industrial production and lower-than-expected retail sales figures.
Asian investors were hoping for further stimulus measures after data showing that China's annual consumer inflation had fallen to a 30-month low in July, suggesting that the central bank has ample scope to ease policy.
But London traders were sobered by annual growth in Chinese factory output slowing to its weakest in more than three years in July, and retail sales that missed market forecasts.
"People have fixated on the inflation number and thought it means more stiumulus. But China is producing a lot less and its retail sales are falling, so it's really a question of demand," said Michael Hewson, a markets analyst at CMC Markets. "You can talk about stimulus all you like, but when will they do it?"
China's refinery throughput inched up 1.1 percent in July, reversing a run of declines for three straight months, but this was the second-lowest level this year as demand stayed tepid in the world's second-largest oil consumer.
Hewson pointed out that markets had been rising on a promise of further stimulus all week, but questioned where demand would come from to keep the oil price at its current elevated levels.
"Easing will only help on the margins - at the end of the day you still need people to buy stuff, and China can't expect its export markets in Europe to grow any time soon given what is happening there."
The oil price remains underpinned by supply restrictions in the North Sea due to maintenance and port closures in the Gulf of Mexico as the hurricane season gets underway.
"Any dip is still being used as a buying opportunity," said Carsten Fritsch, an energy analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt. "Given the supply risk, with falling North Sea output and the closure of three oil ports in Mexico, all this should lend support to prices."
North Sea oil output will plunge 17 percent in September due to maintenance at the Buzzard oilfield and natural decline, adding to signs of a shortage that may artificially lift prices of Brent.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Ernesto has moved into the southern Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico, where the country's main oil operations are located. Mexico closed its three major oil export ports on the Gulf.
"This Tropical Storm is a reminder that the most active time of the hurricane season is just ahead of us so this could also add a risk premium to the oil price," said Fritsch.
"We should see another dip in U.S. crude oil inventories in the next report, due to lower imports," he added.
U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell more than expected last week despite rising imports, data from the Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday. Analysts said the shutdown of an Enbridge pipeline reduced supply.
Adding to general feelings of tighter supply, Saudi Arabia said that it had cut its crude output in July to 9.8 million barrels per day (bpd), down from 10.1 million in June.
Saudi has been pumping at a higher rate since spring to compensate for the loss of Iranian crude due to a Western embargo. (Additional reporting by Florence Tan in Singapore; Editing by Alison Birrane)