(Reuters) - Oil fell to $99 a barrel on Tuesday after Norway ended a strike that threatened to halt oil output and prospects for demand growth dimmed after China bought less oil.
Brent fell more than $2 during earlier trade in Asia to a low of $98.22 after the Norwegian government stepped in and ordered a last-minute settlement in a labor dispute to prevent a full closure of the country's oil industry.
The strike over pensions, which began on June 24, had cut oil production by about 13 percent and pushed oil above $100 on Monday.
By 7:10 a.m. EDT, Brent was off 81 cents to $99.51, while U.S. crude slipped 23 cents to $85.76 a barrel.
The intervention (by the Norwegian government) means that a major supply disruption is prevented, Olivier Jakob wrote in his Petromatrix note.
More bearish news emerged from China, the world's second biggest crude consumer. Imports plunged in June to the lowest this year from a record high the previous month, as refiners cut purchases amid slowing oil demand.
China accounted for more than half the world's oil demand growth last year.
The reduced oil demand from China could result in a further increase in the already considerable oversupply on the oil market, thus precluding any further recovery of oil prices, said a Commerzbank research note.
China is expected to release GDP data later this week that could show the weakest expansion in three years. If confirmed, the figures could help support oil as investors expect the government to introduce measures to boost the economy.
Prices could also gain support from a decline in U.S. crude stockpiles. Crude inventories in the world's biggest oil consumer are forecast to have fallen for the third straight week due to lower imports and higher refinery usage, a preliminary Reuters poll showed on Monday.
(Additional reporting by Florence Tan in Singapore and Risa Maeda in Tokyo; editing by James Jukwey)