Oil consolidated around $73 per barrel on Monday, stabilizing after three weeks of falls, with the outlook still clouded by concerns over the prospects for global growth and sluggish fuel demand.

Fresh economic data out of China, the world's second-largest energy consumer, heightened concerns that Beijing would further tighten monetary policy.

Economists say tighter Chinese monetary policy could choke off economic recovery if it reins in domestic consumption.

U.S. crude for March delivery rose 37 cents to $73.26 a barrel by 1447 GMT. Prices touched $72.43 on January 29, the lowest intraday price since December 21. London Brent crude rose 43 cents to $71.89.

Oil prices ended January down more than 8 percent, pressured by data showing tepid energy demand in the United States, worries about fiscal turmoil in smaller euro zone countries and a stronger U.S. dollar.

Commodities prices sometimes move inversely to the dollar as they are priced in the U.S. currency.

The dollar came under some pressure on Monday after news that President Barack Obama expected the U.S. budget deficit would soar to a record in 2010, challenging his push for fiscal responsibility while driving to defeat mass unemployment. <.DXY>


Oil prices are up a little in a short-term rebound, said Eugen Weinberg, commodities analyst at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

This is not a trend higher but a reaction after three weeks of falls. The fundamentals have not improved, the market is still over supplied and demand is not there yet.

Markets are bracing for economic data this week culminating in non-farm payrolls on Friday.

A key U.S. January manufacturing report at 10:00 a.m. EST (1500 GMT) is expected to give a reading of 55.2, showing an expanding sector for the sixth straight month.

European equities turned positive in afternoon trade on Monday, supported by early gains on Wall Street, with strength in banks offsetting some weakness in defensive food producers. By 1438 GMT, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> rose 0.1 percent to 1,012.58 points. <.EU>

In January, the European stock index suffered its worst monthly loss since February 2009, knocked by worries over Greek debt and the prospect of more regulation of the banking system.

Major oil companies also report this week, led by Exxon Mobil , which on Monday announced a better-than-expected 23 percent decline in its fourth-quarter profit on Monday.

Exxon said weak demand for fuel during the economic slowdown hurt its refining business.

BP Plc reports results on Tuesday and Royal Dutch Shell follows with its data on Thursday.

Shell said on Sunday it shut three oil flow stations in Nigeria's Niger Delta after a key crude oil pipeline was sabotaged.

(Additional reporting by Fayen Wong in Perth; editing by Sue Thomas)