Oil prices are steady above $78 a barrel today on expectation that Chinese economic data to be published this week will signal strong demand growth.

For February delivery, US crude futures increased by 15¢ to $78.15 a barrel at 7:51am GMT, reports Reuters.

For March delivery, London Brent crude futures fell 28¢ to $76.82 a barrel.

The Chinese economic indicators, which include data on retail sales, producer prices and inflation, will be released on 21 January 2010.

Crude oil imports from China is projected to increase by 15% in 2010 compared with 2009 as the country starts the second phase of its state petroleum reserve, according to Xinhua’s China Oil, Gas & Petrochemicals report.