Oil eases towards $48
Oil fell slightly on Wednesday, but drew support from cold weather and an escalation in the Ukraine-Russia dispute that has choked off natural gas supplies and increased demand for refined oil products, reported Reuters.
Russian gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine shut down completely on Wednesday, leaving growing numbers of European Union member states without Russian fuel in freezing mid-winter temperatures.
"We're down a bit but not significantly considering the big Uswings in prices recently," said Christopher Bellew at Bache Commodities.
"It appears prices are still being supported by colder weather and to some extent the Ukrainian crisis."
U.S. crude for February delivery was down 23 cents at $48.35 by 1125 GMT (6:25 a.m. EST), while London Brent rose 26 cents to $50.79.
The Russia-Ukraine dispute has increased demand for gas oil, offering support to crude. It echoes a similar row three years ago that raised questions about Russia's reliability as an energy exporter.
Later on Wednesday, the focus for oil traders will shift to weekly U.S. inventory data that will give the latest indication of demand in the world's biggest fuel consumer.
Crude oil stocks are expected to rise 900,000 barrels and supplies of distillates and gasoline are also expected to have increased.
Oil has risen nearly 50 percent from a low of $32.40 on December 19 as Israel's incursion into Gaza and the Russia-Ukraine row raised concern about supply disruptions, and OPEC output cuts threatened to tighten supplies.
Israel and Hamas studied an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday that won immediate backing from the United States and Europe.
While the conflict does not directly threaten any oil supplies, unrest in the Middle East can bolster prices because countries in the region pump about a third of the world's oil.