Crude prices ease in Asia on profit taking

SINGAPORE- Oil prices eased in Asian trade Monday as dealers booked profits after strong gains last week fuelled by positive US economic data and the tensions in Ukraine.

New York’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for May delivery eased 25 cents to $101.42 a barrel in afternoon trade and Brent North Sea crude for May dipped 16 cents to $107.91.

Tan Chee Tat, investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore, told AFP: “We are seeing some easing because of some profit taking.”

WTI prices got a boost last week from data showing robust US consumer spending.

Orders for US durable goods — a key indicator of the economy — rose 2.2 percent in February from the prior month, beating expectations for a 1.0-percent decline.

Investors are also tracking events in Europe as the top diplomats from the US and Russia held talks to find a solution to the crisis in Ukraine.

Russian troops are massed on the borders of eastern Ukraine, sparking fears about Moscow’s plans after it took control of the Crimean peninsula this month.

While the two failed Sunday to reach a breakthrough deal in Paris they did agree to keep talking after what were described as “frank” and “constructive” negotiations.

The latest bid to resolve the worst East-West standoff in the post-Cold War era came after Russian leader Vladimir Putin unexpectedly called US President Barack Obama on Friday.

Russia provides about a quarter of Europe’s natural gas supplies, with about 80 percent of those exports travelling through pipelines in Ukraine, analysts say.

Traders fear that an escalation of the crisis would disrupt those supplies.