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Oil prices up on Libya, Ukraine tensions

Unrest in Libya and the Ukraine are pushing

Unrest in Libya and the Ukraine are pushing up crude oil prices. This gas was pumped Sept. 27, 2013. Photo Credit: AP

The price of oil inched higher above $104 a barrel Wednesday as the conflicts in Ukraine and Libya posed renewed risks to crude supplies.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for July delivery was up 16 cents to $104.27 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Tuesday, the Nymex contract fell 24 cents to close at $104.11.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, was up 13 cents to $110.15 on the ICE exchange in London.

Markets are uneasy about the conflict in Ukraine, a key conduit for Russian gas to reach Europe. Russia's acceptance of the result of Sunday's presidential election was seen as a sign of easing tensions but more fighting between government forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east made clear the situation still is uncertain.

"The escalating crisis in Ukraine continues to dominate the market in the short-term until there is a clear resolution to the political issues in the region," said Myrto Sokou of Sucden Financial Research in London.

In Libya, which has been unable to stabilize since the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, the National Oil Corp. said crude exports stood at 160,000 barrels a day, down from 1.4 million barrels a day a year ago. Several key export facilities are controlled by militias who do not recognize the central government.

Libyan crude output was set to fall even more after militias blocked the loading of tankers at a terminal which had recently reopened, analysts said.

Investors will also be monitoring fresh information on U.S. stockpiles of crude and refined products.

Data for the week ending May 23 is expected to show a build of 1 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a draw of 200,000 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 Wednesday, while the report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration — the market benchmark — will be out on Thursday. The reports come a day later than usual because of Monday's Memorial Day holiday.

In other energy futures trading in New York.

— Wholesale gasoline shed 0.13 cent to $2.9794 per gallon.

— Natural gas added 1.5 cents to $4.52 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil rose 0.26 cent to $2.942 a gallon.

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