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US oil ends higher after retail data; Brent spikes on Ukraine drama

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Brent crude surged on Monday as Western powers considered tougher sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine, while U.S. crude rose modestly after positive retail sales data signaled a rebound in the American economy.

Several European Union foreign ministers threatened Moscow with new sanctions and France's foreign minister said the group could hold an emergency summit next week if there is no breakthrough in talks involving Russia, Ukraine and the United States that are scheduled for Thursday.

Brent crude rose by nearly $2 after the Pentagon announced a Russian fighter aircraft made repeated low-altitude, close-range passes near a U.S. ship in the Black Sea over the weekend. The contract hovered near $109, up more than a percent on the day. U.S. oil rose 31 cents to settle at $104.05, after settling up 34 cents in the previous session.

Brent prices

In Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists continued to occupy government buildings in the eastern part of the country while another group of rebels attacked a police headquarters as a military offensive threatened by the interim president in Kiev failed to materialize. The United States said it was prepared to step up sanctions against Russia, a major exporter of crude oil to Europe and Asia, if the separatist action continued.

Separately, U.S. retail sales logged their biggest gain in 1-1/2 years in March, the latest sign the economy is accelerating after its weather-induced winter slumber, lending support to U.S. crude oil prices. Investors awaited fresh economic growth data from China, the world's second-biggest oil consumer.

--By Reuters