Oil falls below $104 ahead of Ukraine meeting

The Associated Press

The price of oil fell Tuesday ahead of talks in Switzerland that might help defuse tension between the West and Russia over Ukraine.

Benchmark U.S. crude for May delivery was down 68 cents to $103.39 at 0650 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 31 cents to close Monday at $104.05.

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.

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Failing that, European Union leaders could meet as early as next week to decide on tighter sanctions on Russia, a major producer of oil and gas, which has been accused of fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine. The Ukraine government said on Sunday it was sending in troops to try to quash a pro-Russian insurgency in the region.

Brent crude, a benchmark used for international varieties of oil, was down 43 cents to $108.64 on the ICE exchange in London after hitting a six-week high.

In other energy futures trading in New York:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.3 cent to $2.999 a gallon.

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— Natural gas fell 0.3 cent to $4.557 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil fell 0.2 cent to $2.977 a gallon.