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Oil whipsawed by Ukraine; US crude sinks ahead of payrolls

Oil was whipsawed on Thursday, as geopolitical risks over the on-going crisis in the Ukraine, competed with economic data that pointed to weaker demand.

Crimea's Moscow-backed parliament voted to allow the southern Ukrainian region to become part of Russia on Thursday, as the U.S. ordered asset freezes and travel bans on a list of individuals it said were involved in Russia's military intervention.

U.S. oil rose to a five-month high on Monday amid fears of an armed conflict with Russia, the world's second largest oil producer, but has since given back all of its gains as domestic economic factors weighed. In choppy trading Thursday, U.S. crude sank as low as $100 before settling up 11 cents at $101.56.

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Jobless claims fell, data showed, a positive sign for the labor market, but manufacturing activity slowed indicating a potential fall in energy demand. Oil demand is expected to decline during an upcoming refinery maintenance season in the United States and Europe.

Traders awaited Friday's nonfarm payrolls data for a fuller indication of economic strength in the world's largest oil consumer.

Brent was up 50 cents above $108 a barrel, after settling $1.54 lower on Wednesday. The contract hit $112.39 on Monday, its highest since Dec. 30.

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