Investing.com - Crude oil prices were steady to slightly weaker in Asia on Friday with crises in Eastern Europe and the Middle East keeping the potential for volatility high.
The U.S. believes Russia is firing artillery across its border at Ukrainian military positions, the State Department said on Thursday, an assertion that Moscow is playing a more direct role in the Ukrainian conflict.
The latest accusations show U.S. officials raising pressure on Moscow and more closely examining Russian activities near the rebel-held portions of eastern Ukraine since the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which Washington blames on pro-Russian separatist fighters.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, West Texas Intermediate crude oil for delivery in September traded at $102.06 a barrel, down 0.01%, after hitting an overnight session low of $102.08 a barrel and a high of $103.31 a barrel.
Brent oil on the ICE Futures Europe exchange fell 0.9% to $107.07 a barrel. Also on traders minds is the cycle of violence in the Middle East from Israel and Gaza to Iraq and Syria.
Overnight, the U.S. Census Bureau reported new home sales dropped by 8.1% to 406,000 units last month, far worse than expectations for a 5.3% decline.
The data pointed to an underlying weakness in the housing sector, which stoked concerns that U.S. recovery is not red hot and may demand less fuel and energy than anticipated.
Elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Labor reported earlier that the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending July 19 declined by 19,000 to 284,000, down from the previous week's total of 303,000.
Analysts had expected jobless claims to rise by 5,000 to 308,000 last week, though the home sales numbers as well as reports that European refineries are cutting runs or even idling plants due to an influx of oil products from the U.S. sent investors selling.
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