|Copyright 2014, The Associated Press|
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down 35 cents to $100.02 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract, which expires Thursday, gained 67 cents to $100.37 the day before. Most trading has moved to the May contract, which was down 36 cents at $98.81 a barrel.
"The tension on the oil market is easing noticeably," said analysts at Commerzbank in Frankfurt in a note to clients. "The waning concerns about the Crimean crisis, the economic weakness in the emerging economies, the stronger U.S. dollar and the previous excessive speculation are all taking their toll."
Still, some signs of strengthening demand continued to sustain prices.
The U.S. Energy Department said that demand for gasoline rose 1.5 percent over the four-week period ended March 14 compared with the same period last year. Supplies of distillates, which include heating oil and diesel, fell by 3.1 million barrels, more than three times the decline analysts were expecting.
Oil also got a boost from the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision Wednesday to further reduce bond purchases aimed at stimulating economic growth. Traders saw that as a sign the Fed is more confident the U.S. economy can grow on its own.
Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was down 20 cents at $106.01 a barrel.