* U.S. oil falls more than $1 as copper tumbles to 4-year
* Brent-U.S. crude spread widest since Feb. 17
* U.S. crude stocks up 2.6 mln barrels last week - API
* France says sanctions on Russia could come this week
* Libya opens fire on escaped tanker
* Coming up: EIA data on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430
(Adds API data, paragraphs 3-7, 14)
By Elizabeth Dilts
NEW YORK, March 11 U.S. crude oil prices fell
below $100 per barrel for the first time in a month as the
potential for more Chinese corporate bond defaults and rising
crude stocks in the United States raised concerns about the
growth of oil demand.
Oil fell more than $1 after copper prices dropped to
four-year lows on worries that other firms may follow Shanghai
Chaori Solar Energy Science and Technology Co Ltd,
which defaulted last week.
Further pressuring the American benchmark, U.S. crude stocks
rose 2.6 million barrels last week, the American Petroleum
Institute reported. That was more than the 2.2 million barrel
build analysts had expected.
Traders will compare the industry group's data with the U.S.
Energy Information Administration's official weekly inventory
report due on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT).
Brent oil futures rose on geopolitical risk as Western
powers moved closer to issuing sanctions against Russia, and
Libya's navy opened fire on a tanker after it had loaded oil at
a rebel-held port.
Brent futures settled 47 cents higher at $108.55 per
barrel. U.S. crude fell $1.09 to settle at $100.03 a
barrel, its lowest settlement price since Feb. 11. The American
benchmark fell further in post-settlement trade, holding near a
low of $99.52 per barrel.
Brent's premium over U.S. crude CL-LCO1=R settled $1.56
wider at $8.52, its widest settlement since Feb. 17 as the
geopolitical risk posed by Ukraine and Libya drove traders to
cover short positions. The spread narrowed to as tight as $5.44
on March 5, its tightest point in almost five months.
Copper and oil markets typically move in tandem, and
Tuesday's downward move may signal a larger slide coming in the
commodities sector, analysts said.
"Copper is a barometer not just for energy prices but also
for the world economy," said Brian LaRose, a technical analyst
at United-ICAP. "It is telling a very different story than oil
markets lately - that there is a risk of recession and a more
sizeable pull back in the commodities sector."
"The energy markets may quickly catch up to copper,
exacerbating a move to the downside."
The French foreign minister said sanctions against Russia
could come as early as this week, and Poland's prime minister
said the European Union would issue sanctions on Monday.
Libya's parliament voted Prime Minister Ali Zeidan out of
office after a tanker loaded with oil from a rebel-held port
escaped the navy, officials said. The Libyan navy opened fire on
the tanker, damaging and therefore stalling the vessel, a Libyan
military spokesman said.
Meanwhile, state oil officials said Libya's El Sharara
oilfield increased production to around 200,000 barrels a day,
up from 150,000 bpd on Monday, but analysts said output remained
uncertain in the long term.
Also in the API report, crude stocks at the Cushing,
Oklahoma, delivery hub fell by 1.3 million barrels, and gasoline
stocks fell by 2.2 million barrels, slightly more than expected
as refiners take down plants for scheduled maintenance.
That report follows recent data from China that showed a
sharp drop in exports, pointing to weak economic activity.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) cut its
forecast for 2014 world oil demand growth by 40,000 bpd in its
monthly Short Term Energy Outlook on Tuesday. It predicted a
1.22 million barrel year-on-year increase.
(Additional reporting by Ron Bousso in London and Manash
Goswami in Singapore; Editing by Anthony Barker, Jason Neely,
Bernadette Baum, Diane Craft and David Gregorio)