Crude gains as Ukraine crisis heats up anew

Crude futures shot up on Tuesday on fears the Russian standoff in Ukraine may escalate, which could disrupt supply from oil-rich Russia.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude oil for delivery in May traded at $102.30 a barrel during U.S. trading, up 1.85%. New York-traded oil futures hit a session low of $100.67 a barrel and a high of $102.49 a barrel.

The May contract settled down 0.69% at $100.44 a barrel on Monday.

Nymex oil futures were likely to find support at $99.95 a barrel, Monday's low, and resistance at $102.89 a barrel, the high from March 7.

Oil prices firmed after pro-Russian activists in Ukraine’s industrial center of Donetsk declared their independence from Kiev, a move Ukrainian leaders described as part of a Russian-orchestrated plan to justify an invasion.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier that Russian agents were encouraging unrest in eastern Ukraine and said Moscow was preparing military action in the region.

Capping gains, however, were expectations for Libyan crude exports to normalize.

Libyan government officials and rebels reached an agreement over the weekend to re-open Zueitina and Hariga ports, which normally export a combined total of 200,000 barrels a day, mostly to Europe.

The news sent oil prices falling, as the end to the standoff will increase global supply.

Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for May delivery were up 1.74%, trading at US$107.67 a barrel, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at US$5.37 a barrel.