- Crude oil prices gained in Asia on Friday as the markets shrugged off bearish factors such as ample U.S. supplies and looked ahead to prospects of renewed flareups in the Ukraine over a referendum on the sovereignty of the Crimean peninsula.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in April traded at 101.85 a barrel, up 0.28%, after hitting an overnight session low of $100.17 a barrel and a high of $101.63 a barrel.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 1.4 million barrels in the week ended Feb. 28, surpassing expectations for an increase of 1.3 million barrels, which sent prices falling on concerns the country is awash in crude.

Total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at 363.8 million barrels as of last week.

The report also showed that total motor gasoline inventories decreased by 1.6 million barrels, compared to forecasts for a drop of 1.2 million barrels, while distillate stockpiles increased by 1.4 million barrels, confounding expectations for a withdrawal of 1.2 million barrels.

Pro-Russian lawmakers in the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea sparked a showdown reminiscent of the Cold War on Thursday, accelerating their bid to leave Ukraine and join Russia in a move that President Obama, the new government in Kiev and European leaders described as provocative and illegal.

Russia is the world''s second-largest crude oil exporter, and sanctions slapped on the country from the West over Ukraine could have disrupted supply.

On the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent oil futures for April delivery rose 0.7%, or $7.70, at $108.51 a barrel, from an intraday low of $107.37 a barrel overnight.

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