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Crude oil prices sag

Oil prices fell as traders took a breather after recent gains, but signs of stronger US gasoline demand and smouldering tensions in Ukraine provided support, according to analysts.

NEW YORK: Oil prices fell on Friday as traders took a breather after recent gains, but signs of stronger US gasoline demand and smouldering tensions in Ukraine provided support, according to analysts.

The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in July, shed 87 cents to $102.71 a barrel compared with Thursday's close.

Brent North Sea crude for July fell 56 cents to stand at $109.41 a barrel in London deals.

The US Department of Energy's weekly oil report on Thursday showed overall US inventories rising, but gasoline, or petrol, supplies falling in the week ended May 23.

Desmond Chua, market analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, told AFP the decline in gasoline supplies suggested robust demand going into the US summer driving season when Americans take to the roads for their holidays.

Traders are tracking also the escalating fighting between government troops and separatist rebels in Ukraine, a major pipeline conduit for Russia's natural gas exports to Europe.

Russia-Ukraine talks over past energy debts and future gas sales stuttered as Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said on Friday that Kiev would "never" purchase gas at the $500 per 1000 cubic meters price currently set by Russia.

He warned that Kiev would file for arbitration if no new gas supply agreement is reached.

But the talks will continue after Ukraine made its first payment on past and future gas deliveries to Russia's Naftogas.

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