The price of oil retreated slightly Friday after climbing to near $104 a barrel amid growing geopolitical concerns following the crash of a Malaysian jetliner in Ukraine and another round of U.S. sanctions on Russia.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for August delivery was down 28 cents to $102.91 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose as high as $103.94 before pulling back. On Thursday, the Nymex contract jumped $1.99 to close at $103.19.
Brent crude for September delivery, a benchmark for international oils, was up 14 cents to $108.03 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
The crash of a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane over Ukraine remained the main topic of interest across financial markets as traders wondered whether it would further stoke tensions in the country that's seen a pro-Russian insurgency over the past few months. The jetliner was shot down raising fears of an escalation in the crisis beyond Ukraine.
The crash came on the day after the Obama Administration announced new sanctions against Russian energy companies, including against Rosneft, Russia's biggest oil producer. While analysts say the stiffer sanctions are unlikely to cause any dip in production or exports in the short term, they could prevent or delay future exploration and production.
And fighting in the Gaza strip intensified after a shaky cease-fire expired, yet another source of turmoil in the Middle East, the world's most important oil-producing region.
"Crude oil prices are expected to continue their recent uptrend due to increasing volatility in the oil market following the uncertainty in Middle East and highly tentative conditions between Ukraine, Russia and the West," said analyst Myrto Sokou from Sucden Financial Research in London.
In other Nymex trading:
-- Wholesale gasoline added 0.48 cent to $2.8611 a gallon.
-- Natural gas rose 0.6 cent to $3.96 per 1,000 cubic feet.
-- Heating oil rose 0.99 cent to $2.8821 a gallon.