"Any sign that tensions might ease in the Russia-Ukraine situation
is going to be bearish," Phil Flynn, analyst at Price Futures Group
in Chicago, said.
Crude futures had seesawed before being weighed down by news that
Russia is withdrawing a motorized infantry battalion from a region
near Ukraine's eastern border, according to a Russian Defence
Ministry spokesperson quoted by state news agencies.
"I would say that given that equities were pretty strong, really
this is a day where oil traders were ... booking some profits and
looking at the fundamentals and seeing a picture of slowing demand
in the second quarter particularly in the U.S.," said Addison
Armstrong, Senior Director of Market Research at Tradition Energy.
Janet Yellen, in her first public speech since taking the reins at
the Fed, said on Monday the U.S. central bank's "extraordinary"
commitment to boosting the economy, especially the still struggling
labor market, will be needed for some time to come.
"I think Fed's Janet Yellen saying that the U.S. economy needs
support for some time, may have caused the market to come off," said
a New York-based broker.
But other market participants thought Yellen's defense of the Fed's
easy money policies should be supportive to commodities because of
the boost to liquidity provided by the central bank's bond buying.
Brent crude for May delivery fell 31 cents to settle on Monday at
$107.76 a barrel, having earlier fallen to $107.05 after reaching
Front-month Brent posted a 2.7 percent loss for the quarter, after
two consecutive quarterly gains, as rising supply from Iraq and
increased exports from Iran have offset supply disruptions in Libya
U.S. May crude fell 9 cents to settle at $101.58 a barrel, after
trading from $100.88 to $101.97. U.S. crude posted a 3.2 percent
gain for the quarter, up after a nearly 4 percent drop in the
Expiring U.S. April RBOB gasoline and heating oil both settled
nearly 1 percent lower on Monday, with May contracts also posting
Helping keep oil prices in check on Monday was news Iraq has started
production at the giant West Qurna-2 field, moving closer to its
output target of 4 million barrels per day (bpd) this year.
[to top of second column]
Fellow OPEC member Libya is pumping a little over 160,000 bpd of
crude oil, about one tenth of pre-civil war production, and gas
exports to Italy are flowing normally but a condensates pipeline
from the Wafa field is closed, a spokesman for state-run National
Oil Corp (NOC) said on Monday.
A leader from the Libyan rebel's tribe told state media on Monday
that rebels in eastern Libya are close to reopening three oil ports
they have occupied since the summer.
Nigerian crude exports are set to fall to their lowest since 2009
due to a production outage for the Forcados grade.
Ahead of weekly reports on U.S. crude oil inventories, analysts
surveyed on Monday yielded a preliminary forecast for crude stocks
to have risen 2.5 million barrels last week.
Distillate stocks were expected to be down 700,000 barrels, with
gasoline inventories seen down 1.5 million barrels.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE TENSIONS IN FOCUS
Crude oil prices were supported early on Monday by ongoing worries
about the crisis in the Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov held talks on Sunday about ways to defuse the crisis
over Ukraine, with Kerry telling Moscow progress depended on a
Russian troop pullback from Ukraine's borders.
The West is considering more sanctions on Russian industries
including its oil and gas sector after the annexation of Crimea.
(Additional reporting by Christopher Johnson in London and Florence
Tan in Singapore; editing by Jason Neely, Bernadette Baum and Diane
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