Crude oil higher, gains capped ahead of U.S. inventory report

Crude oil futures moved higher on Tuesday as fresh tensions over Ukraine clouded the supply outlook, but gains were checked ahead of U.S. oil inventory data due out later in the trading day.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil futures for delivery in May were last trading at $101.16 in the Globex electronic session, up 0.71%, after rising as high as $101.43 earlier.

Brent oil for May delivery was up 0.43% to $106.27 a barrel on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, while the spread between the Brent and U.S. crude contracts stood at $5.11 a barrel.

Escalating geopolitical risk supported oil prices after pro-Russian activists in Ukraine’s industrial center of Donetsk declared their independence from Kiev. Ukrainian leaders described the development as part of a Russian-orchestrated plan to justify an invasion.

The rise in oil prices was capped by hopes over easing tension between Iran and the West after Tehran said it soon hopes to start drafting a final accord to end a standoff over its nuclear program.

Oil prices were also held in check ahead of data on U.S. oil stockpiles from the American Petroleum Institute scheduled for release later Tuesday.