The price of oil slipped to near $103 a barrel on Wednesday as concerns over Russia's military advance into Ukraine eased, but the situation remained tense overall.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down 31 cents to $103.02 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Tuesday, the Nymex contract fell $1.59 to close at $103.33.
Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was down 63 cents at $108.67 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London. "Both major crude oil contracts have now completely reversed their Russia-and-Ukraine-related gains," said analyst Fawad Razaqzada at Forex.com in London.
On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the situation in Ukraine was "gradually stabilizing," helping to cool tensions after Russian troops took control of all Ukrainian border posts on the strategic Crimean Peninsula. Putin warned, however, that Moscow reserves the right to use all means to protect Russians in the country.
Investors are concerned there might be economic sanctions against Russia, which was the world's second-largest producer of oil in 2012 and the top exporter of natural gas. Any sanctions could limit world supply and push up prices.
Markets were also awaiting fresh data on U.S. stockpiles of crude oil and refined products. Data for the week ending Feb. 28 is expected to show a build of 1.5 million barrels in crude oil stocks and a draw of 1.5 million barrels in gasoline stocks, according to a survey of analysts by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Cos.
The industry-funded American Petroleum Institute said Tuesday that crude stocks rose by 1.2 million barrels last week. The report from the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration — the market benchmark — will be out later Wednesday.
In other energy futures trading on Nymex: — Wholesale gasoline lost 1.05 cents to $2.9748 per gallon. — Heating oil fell 1.87 cents to $3.022 per gallon. — Natural gas retreated 4.7 cents to $4.62 per 1,000 cubic feet.