Oil prices drop after Ukraine's Crimea opts for Russia
Oil prices fell modestly Monday as markets downplayed fears of disruptions to Western European energy supplies after Crimea voted in a disputed referendum to leave Ukraine and join Russia.
New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in April, finished trading at $98.08 a barrel, a loss of 81 cents from Friday's close.
Brent North Sea crude for May delivery slid $1.97 to $106.24 a barrel in London trade, its lowest level since early February.
"The current pulse of the market suggests a consensus view that oil and gas will continue to flow, even directly through Ukraine," said Tim Evans of Citi Futures.
The European Union and the United States on Monday slapped sanctions on top Russians and Ukrainians deemed responsible for the breakaway vote on the Crimean peninsula that has fanned the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War.
Crimea's separatist authorities meanwhile moved against energy companies in their first nationalizations after deciding all Ukrainian state property would be transferred into Crimean ownership.
Fawad Razaqzada, analyst at traders Forex.com, said there was some market relief that the economic sanctions were not aimed at the Russian government.
"After all, it is not in Europe's interests to impose restrictions on Russian energy exports given the fact that they supply about a third of the EU's oil and gas needs," he said.
Evans, the Citi Futures analyst, noted that Libyan oil production had dropped again as the country struggles with rebels blockading eastern oil terminals since July, cutting exports from 1.5 million barrels a day to a trickle of 250,000.
"The market seems to have priced in minimal exports," he said.
On Monday US Navy SEALs captured an oil tanker that had loaded crude at a rebel-held port in eastern Libya and escaped to sea, at the request of both Libya and Cyprus. The naval commandos were taking it to a Libya port, the US Defense Department said, without identifying the destination.
Traders were awaiting the outcome of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting on Wednesday. The US central bank is expected to further cut its massive stimulus program amid a slowly recovering economy, the world's largest crude-oil consumer.
© 2014 AFP