Crude Stays Heavy As Ukraine-Russia Diplomacy Plows Ahead

Brent crude steadied around $108 a barrel on Thursday as the West and Russia engaged in high-stakes diplomacy to cool the crisis in Ukraine.

The North Sea benchmark has fallen $4 since peaking on Monday, when investors grew concerned over the crisis between Ukraine and Russia.

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels were set to warn but not sanction Russia, whose forces have seized control of Ukraine’s Crimea region. The foreign ministers of Russia and the United States are due to meet again on Thursday in Rome.

Brent was off 30 cents under $108, after settling $1.54 lower. The contract hit $112.39 on Monday, its highest since Dec. 30. U.S. crude was 80 cents lower, sinking under $101 after dropping $1.88 in the previous session.

Oil was pressured further by a larger than expected rise in U.S. crude stocks and data showing private employers in the United States added fewer workers than forecast in February.

Elsewhere, U.S. crude oil stockpiles rose more than expected last week as imports increased and refinery output fell, data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed on Wednesday. Crude oil inventories rose by 1.4 million barrels in the week ending Feb. 28, compared with analyst expectations for a build of 1.3 million barrels.

Source: Reuters