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Apr 17, 3:06 PM EDT

Oil tops $104 on Ukraine fears

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The price of oil rose past $104 per barrel Thursday on worries over the upheaval in Ukraine.

Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery rose 54 cents to close at $104.30 a barrel in New York.

Supplies in the U.S. are ample - the Energy Department reported the biggest gain in stocks in 13 years Wednesday.

But that wasn't enough to calm the fears of traders this week, who worry that Russia's actions in response to the turmoil in Ukraine could be met with sanctions that disrupt exports of Russia's oil and gas.

Despite indications of a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine Thursday, traders remained concerned that the situation could worsen over the coming long weekend and were reluctant to sell oil.

Oil markets are closed Friday.

Energy Analyst Jim Ritterbusch expects oil prices to quickly fall back next week if the Ukraine crisis does not worsen. "We still expect some downside rotation through the balance of this month," he wrote in a note to investors.

Brent crude, an international benchmark used to price oil used by many U.S. refineries, was down 7 cents to close at $109.53 a barrel for June delivery in London.

The price of natural gas surged nearly 5 percent Thursday after the Energy Department reported that U.S. storage levels rose less than analysts had expected. Natural gas for May delivery rose 21.1 cents to $4.741 per 1,000 cubic feet.

The average retail price of gasoline rose less than a penny to $3.66 per gallon, the highest level since last July.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

- Wholesale gasoline rose 1.4 cents to close at $3.055 a gallon.

- Heating oil fell 0.1 cent to close at $3.001 a gallon.

------

AP Writer Pablo Gorondi contributed to this report from Budapest.

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