The price of oil fell only slightly on Monday, to near $98 a barrel, after Crimea's vote to split from Ukraine and join Russia, a development already anticipated by investors.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down $0.62 to $98.27 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the Nymex contract rose $0.69 to close at $98.89.
Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was down $1.02 to $107.19 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
Crimea's parliament on Monday declared the region an independent state, following its residents' overwhelming decision in a referendum held Sunday to break away from Ukraine and seek to join Russia. The United States, the European Union and others said the vote violated the Ukrainian constitution and international law.
On Monday, EU foreign ministers announced travel bans and asset freezes on 21 individuals seen pushing for the secession and possible annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. While Russia is a major oil and gas producer, sanctions are not seen stretching that far for now.
"This outcome was already priced in while news that the potential sanctions could be against the Russian government rather than businesses has further calmed the nerves," said analyst Fawad Razaqzada at Forex.com in London. "It is not in Europe's interests to impose restrictions on Russian energy exports given the fact that they supply about a third of the EU's oil and gas needs."
For Russia, around 70% of export revenues come from energy sales, analysts said.
Worries about slowing demand from China, one of the world's top energy consumers, as well as the availability of plentiful crude supplies on global markets have also contributed to falling prices in the past several days.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex:
- Wholesale gasoline fell 2.97 cents to $2.9205 a gallon.
- Heating oil dropped 2.52 cents to $2.903 a gallon.
- Natural gas added 12.5 cents to $4.55 per 1,000 cubic feet.
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