West Texas Intermediate crude traded near the highest close in three weeks as the U.S. and Russia sought to defuse the crisis over Ukraine. Brent stayed near a 14-day peak amid persisting supply disruption from Libya.
Futures were little changed in New York, headed for a quarterly advance of 2.9 percent. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Russia must withdraw forces that are “creating a climate of fear and intimidation” as his counterpart in the Kremlin urged the government in Kiev to give Ukraine’s regions more autonomy. Supplies at Cushing, Oklahoma, the delivery point for WTI, shrank last week for the eighth week to the lowest in two years, the Energy Information Administration said.
“There is a looming tension on Crimea,” said Abhishek Deshpande, oil markets analyst at London-based Natixis. “WTI has been driven by drawdowns in Cushing which are down 42 percent year-on-year. If it continues at the current level of decline we could reach the operational lows come the summer and see WTI cross over Brent as happened last summer.”
WTI for May delivery was at $101.31 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, down 36 cents, at 12:39 p.m. London time. The contract climbed 39 cents to $101.67 on March 28, the highest close since March 7 and capping a second weekly increase. The volume of all futures traded was about 33 percent below the 100-day average.
Brent for May settlement was at $107.81 a barrel, down 24 cents on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. The March 28 close was the highest since March 14. The European benchmark crude was at a premium of $6.53 to WTI. The spread narrowed for a third day on March 28 to close at $6.40.
Brent is poised for a decline of 2.7 percent this quarter.
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