* U.S. crude oil settles more than $2 higher
* U.S. crude oil stocks seen rising 7.1 mln barrels - API
* U.S. says Moscow behind separatists in eastern Ukraine
* Libya's preparations to load crude cap gains
* Coming up: EIA data Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT)
(Enters API data)
By Elizabeth Dilts
NEW YORK, April 8 U.S. crude oil prices rose
more than 2 percent on Tuesday in a technical-driven rally
boosted by a weaker U.S. dollar and forecasts for a draw on
stockpiles of domestic oil products.
Fresh unrest in eastern Ukraine provided background support
for Brent as traders worried that heightened tensions between
Moscow and the Western powers might interrupt oil supply from
Russia, one of the world's top oil exporters.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Tuesday
it did not assume that a disruption of oil supply or demand
would result from the events in Ukraine.
The U.S. dollar fell to near three-week lows against
a basket of six major currencies on Tuesday, which boosted
buying of dollar-priced commodities such as oil.
U.S. commercial crude stocks rose last week by 7.1 million
barrels, much more than expected, according to preliminary data
released by the industry group the American Petroleum Institute.
A preliminary poll by Reuters forecast crude stocks rose
by just 1.3 million barrels.
U.S. crude oil pared gains slightly in post-settlement
trade, falling by 23 cents to $102.31 a barrel in the immediate
minutes after the data was released.
However, traders said they remained bullish as they awaited
official data from the Energy Information Administration to be
released Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EDT (1430 GMT), that is
expected to show that gasoline stocks and stockpiles at the
Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery point fell.
Technical trading boosted Brent and U.S. crude prices in
addition to the support from fundamentals after both contracts
fell to key lows on Monday, and bounced back in Tuesday's
"The seeds to today's prices were sowed yesterday," said
Walter Zimmermann, chief technical analyst at United-ICAP in New
"Both U.S. crude and Brent held exactly, to the penny, to a
bull mark correction (level). The reaction to falling to that
key level was (they) ricocheted higher."
U.S. crude rose $2.27 to hit a session high of
$102.71 a barrel, before giving up some gains to settle $2.12
higher at $102.56 a barrel.
Brent rose $2.03 to a session high of $107.85 a
barrel. It settled $1.85 higher at $107.67 a barrel.
Brent's premium over U.S. crude narrowed 27 cents to $5.11.
Limiting Brent's gains was the prospect that Libyan oil
exports would rebound. Crude prices fell on Monday after news
that rebels had agreed to gradually end their eight-month
blockade of Libyan oil ports, which account for around 700,000
barrels per day.
However, Libya's National Oil Corp had not yet lifted a
force majeure at the eastern ports on Tuesday.
The Ukraine government said the occupation of government
buildings by pro-Moscow protesters that began on Sunday is part
of a Russian-led plan to dismember the country. U.S. Secretary
of State John Kerry said he feared Moscow might repeat its
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned Moscow
that if it encroaches into eastern Ukraine, there would be
"grave consequences" for its relationship with the alliance.
News of an easing of tensions between the West and Iran kept
a lid on global oil prices. Tehran said Monday it hoped for
enough progress this week to enable negotiators to start
drafting a final accord by mid-May to settle a long-running
dispute over its nuclear program.
The Islamic republic and six world powers will hold a new
round of talks in Vienna on Tuesday and Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Ron Buosso in London; Editing by Jane
Baird, Lisa Von Ahn, Bernadette Baum, Peter Galloway and