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Apr 15, 3:12 PM EDT

Oil falls ahead of meeting in Switzerland over Ukraine crisis, latest supply report in US


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The price of oil fell Tuesday ahead of talks aimed at defusing tensions over Ukraine and the latest report on U.S. oil supplies.

Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery slid 30 cents to close at $103.75 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Monday, the Nymex contract rose 31 cents.

Brent crude, a benchmark used for international varieties of oil, dropped 33 cents to $108.74 on the ICE Futures exchange in London after hitting a six-week high.

Officials from the U.S., Russia, Ukraine and the European Union are set to meet in Geneva on Thursday for negotiations aimed at persuading Russia to back off in Ukraine following its annexation of Crimea.

Failing that, EU leaders could meet as early as next week to decide on tighter sanctions on Russia, a major producer of oil and gas that has been accused of fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine.

Expectations of rising U.S. crude oil stockpiles also weighed on prices.

Data for the week ending April 11 is expected to show an increase of 2.4 million barrels in crude oil stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.

Meanwhile, continued uncertainty about the reopening of oil export terminals in Libya, a key supplier of high-quality crude to European refineries, kept a floor under prices.

In the U.S., the average price for a gallon of gasoline stood at $3.64. That's up 12 cents from a month ago, and 11 cents higher than at this time last year.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

- Wholesale gasoline was flat at $3.04 a gallon.

- Natural gas rose 1 cent to $4.57 per 1,000 cubic feet.

- Heating oil lost 1 cent to $2.98 a gallon.

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Yuras Karmanau in Horlivka, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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