Oil topped $112 per barrel on Tuesday as investors awaited evidence of economic growth in top energy consumer China.

Dealers will closely monitor China's trade data for December, due on Thursday, for confirmation that Beijing is on a steady yet slow path to recovery.

Brent futures were up 84 cents at $112.24 per barrel by 1259 GMT, after reaching a session high of $112.47. U.S. crude traded up 36 cents at $93.55.

"There are now very clear indications that this slowdown has come to an end," Credit Suisse analysts said in a report.

"The latest leading economic indicators show that global growth is gaining again - particularly in key commodity consuming countries such as China and the U.S."

China's trade numbers may show export growth rebounded from three-month lows in December, although weak demand in the United States and Europe, the country's two biggest customers, may temper the recovery.

"There's been some slightly more optimistic data out of China and Europe and there are some signs of recovery in the U.S.," said Christopher Bellew, a broker at Jefferies Bache in London.

European Central Bank policymakers will meet on Thursday and economists polled by Reuters were split on whether the bank would cut rates in 2013 after the regional economy shrank for three straight quarters last year.

Investors will also be awaiting oil inventory data from the United States due on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Commercial crude oil stockpiles may have fallen by 300,000 barrels on average in the week ended Jan. 4 as Gulf Coast refiners cut imports for year-end tax purposes, a preliminary Reuters poll of four analysts showed..

The previous week's data, which showed that imports dropped by the biggest margin in a decade, had triggered worries of weak demand and sent U.S. oil prices lower. (Additional reporting by Ramya Venugopal in Singapore; Editing by William Hardy)