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Oil near $103 ahead of Ukraine talks

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was down 92 cents to $103.13 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

By PABLO GORONDI,
The Associated Press

4/15/2014

The price of oil fell to near $103 a barrel Tuesday ahead of talks aimed at defusing tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was down 92 cents to $103.13 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Monday, the Nymex contract rose 31 cents.

Brent crude, a benchmark used for international varieties of oil, was down 68 cents to $108.39 on the ICE Futures exchange in London after hitting a six-week high.

Officials from the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and the European Union are set to meet in Geneva on Thursday for negotiations aimed at persuading Russia to back off in Ukraine following its annexation of Crimea.

Failing that, EU leaders could meet as early as next week to decide on tighter sanctions on Russia, a major producer of oil and gas that has been accused of fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine. On Tuesday, Ukrainian tanks were seen within 70 kilometers (43 miles) of one city controlled by pro-Moscow gunmen after Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, announced an "anti-terrorist operation" to root out the "separatists."

Expectations of rising U.S. crude oil stockpiles also weighed on prices.

Data for the week ending April 11 is expected to show a build of 2.4 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a draw of 1.7 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

The American Petroleum Institute will release its report on oil stocks later Tuesday, while the report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration — the market benchmark — will be out on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, continued uncertainty about the reopening of oil export terminals in Libya, a key supplier of high-quality crude to European refineries, kept a floor under prices.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 1.81 cents to $2.985 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 0.1 cent to $4.559 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil lost 0.76 cent to $2.9715 a gallon.

Yuras Karmanau in Horlivka, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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