HSBC has released key China data, stating an improvement in manufacturing although remaining in contraction. - File photo

SINGAPORE: Oil prices edged down in Asian trade Monday as cautious traders awaited the release of key economic data from China and the United States, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June shed 15 cents to $103.73 and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery retreated eight cents to $118.68.

“The market is in quite a cautionary mode at the moment,” said Justin Harper, market strategist for IG Markets Singapore.

“We've got some big news coming out this week, we've got China with the HSBC flash manufacturing. They're such a huge buyer of oil. That will be keenly watched. We have the Fed on Wednesday,” he told AFP.

The HSBC flash manufacturing PMI for China will be released later Monday, and comes as data showed the world's second largest economy growing at its slowest pace for almost three years in the first quarter of 2012.

The US Federal Reserve's interest rate-setting panel was also due to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday amid a fresh bout of anxiety over the slow pace of the revival of the world's largest economy.

Analysts said the Fed meeting will decide whether more economic stimulus is warranted as high gasoline prices, slowing job growth and Europe's debt problems have raised fears of another spring stumble.

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