Ukraine crisis weighs on oil

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Tokyo - Oil prices fell further in Asian trade on Friday owing to concerns over soft US economic data and the unfolding crisis in Ukraine.

New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for April delivery, eased 36 cents to $102.04 in mid-morning trade, while Brent North Sea crude for April slid nine cents to $108.87.

WTI fell 19 cents while Brent slid 56 cents in closing deals on Thursday.

US data on Thursday showed first-time claims for unemployment insurance benefits, a sign of the pace of layoffs, rose last week, well above analysts' average estimate.

New orders for manufactured durable goods also fell 1.0 percent in January, extending December's 5.3 percent tumble, the US Commerce Department said.

US Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen told the Senate Banking Committee that policymakers thought severe weather across much of the country was to blame for a disappointing run of economic data over the past two months, including on jobs, industrial output and consumption.

However, she said they would be keeping a close eye on the economy to see if the weak figures continue, which could lead to a slower pace of cuts to the stimulus programme.

Investors are also keeping an eye on the crisis in Ukraine, a major energy consumer where the ousted pro-Moscow president, Viktor Yanukovich, emerged defiant on Thursday after five days in hiding.

Singapore's United Overseas Bank said in a market commentary that investors were fretting over weaker US data and the ongoing Ukraine uncertainties. - AFP

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