Investing.com - New York-traded crude oil futures ended higher on Friday, as traders returned to the market to cover short positions ahead of Sunday''s closely-watched referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea region.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, light sweet crude futures for delivery in April settled 0.7% higher, or $0.69 cents, to end the week at $98.89 a barrel.
U.S. oil futures were likely to find support at $97.55 a barrel, the low from March 12 and resistance at $99.60 a barrel, the high from March 12.
Investors continued to monitor events in Ukraine, where tension over moves by neighboring Russia in the Crimean region have heightened demand for safe haven assets.
Tensions between Russia and the West remained high ahead of Sunday''s referendum in Ukraine’s Crimea region, now controlled by pro-Russian forces, on whether citizens want to join Russia.
The U.S. and Europe have said they would impose economic and diplomatic sanctions on Russia next week, if the vote takes place.
Oil prices received an additional boost after the International Energy Agency raised its forecast for global oil demand this year. The IEA increased its forecast by 95,000 barrels to 1.4 million a day, citing stronger economic growth.
Despite Friday’s gains, U.S. crude futures, also known as West Texas Intermediate or WTI, fell 3.59%, or $3.69, on the week amid concerns over a slowdown in demand in the U.S. and China, the largest and second-largest oil consumers.
Oil prices fell sharply on Wednesday as weak economic reports from China raised fresh concerns over the strength of the world’s second-largest economy. On Thursday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang warned that the economy faced "severe challenges" in 2014.
Fears over problems in China’s financial sector also sapped risk appetite following the country’s first domestic bond default this month.
In the week ahead, investors will be looking ahead to Wednesday’s monetary policy announcement by the Federal Reserve amid speculation the central bank is likely to continue to scale back its stimulus program.
The Fed is also to publish its economic forecasts and Fed Chair Janet Yellen will hold a press conference.
Data from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission released Friday showed that hedge funds and money managers reduced their bullish bets in New York-traded oil futures in the week ending March 11.
Net longs totaled 328,095 contracts, down 5.3% from net longs of 346,469 in the preceding week.
Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for May delivery added 1.21%, or $1.29, on Friday to settle the week at $108.21 a barrel.
Despite Friday’s gains, the May Brent contract declined 0.52%, or $0.57 cents, on the week. Meanwhile, the spread between the Brent and the WTI crude contracts stood at $9.32 a barrel by close of trade on Friday.