Oil Futures Ease Back as Geopolitical Fears Fade

By Daniel HuangFOXBusiness

Oil futures inched lower Friday as markets calmed and traders awaited new developments from Ukraine and the Middle East.

Light sweet crude futures for August delivery slid 6 cents, or 0.1%, to $103.13 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The Brent September contract lost 65 cents, or 0.6%, to $107.24 a barrel, on the ICE futures exchange.

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News that a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet may have been shot down by Russian-backed separatists, according to statements made by the White House Friday, has raised concerns that the U.S. may expand the round of sanctions it announced earlier in the week, with European countries following suit. The sanctions so far have targeted large Russian energy firms like Rosneft and Gazprom without cutting them off from world markets completely, but harsher conditions may be imposed if the investigation finds Russia at fault.

"There's growing outrage against Russia, particularly in Europe," said Phil Flynn, an analyst at Price Futures Group in Chicago. "The market is going to be on guard for further sanctions that go after bigger fish."

Russia is the world's second-largest crude-oil producer, and any restrictions on its exports could reverberate through the market. Other forces in the mix include the mobilization of Israeli troops into Gaza, possible delays in the return of Libyan oil to the export market, and ongoing turmoil in Iraq. But the absence of any immediate threat to supply is keeping prices from rising, analysts said.

"Despite the plethora of crisis reports, the market is not really allowing itself to be knocked out of kilter," Commerzbank AG said in a note.

Front-month August reformulated gasoline blendstock, or RBOB, lost 2.14 cents to $2.8603 a gallon while August diesel fell 1.40 cent to $2.8452 a gallon.

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