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Oil prices stable amid Ukraine talks

Oil prices diverged slightly on Thursday as dealers weighed lingering concerns over the Ukraine crisis with a weaker-than-expected US stockpiles report, analysts said.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in May, edged up nine cents to $103.85 a barrel.

Brent North Sea crude for June eased 16 cents to $109.44 a barrel in London deals.

Broker Phillip Futures said events in Eastern Europe continued "to peg crude prices at elevated levels" as markets closely tracked Geneva talks on Thursday between Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and Washington.

Foreign ministers involved in the talks were seeking to diffuse the tense situation in the east of Ukraine, where government forces trying to reassert control have faced pro-Russia resistance.

Traders are concerned that any full-scale armed conflict in the region will disrupt supplies and send oil and gas prices rocketing because Ukraine is a major conduit for Russian gas to western Europe.

A failure of Thursday's talks could result in another round of sanctions against Russia.

Analysts meanwhile noted that a weak US supply report was capping gains in oil prices.

The US Energy Information Administration's weekly oil inventory report showed commercial crude stocks jumped 10 million barrels in the week to April 11, far above the 1.5 million barrel gain projected by analysts.

The rise was "the biggest one-week increase in US crude oil supplies in 13 years", Singapore's United Overseas Bank said in a note to clients.

A surge in US crude stockpiles is indicative of weak demand in the world's biggest economy and top crude consumer, which would in turn hit global prices.

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