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Oil down after Crimea votes to join with Russia

Oil prices were slightly lower Monday after Crimea's vote to split from Ukraine and join Russia.

Benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down 9 cents to US$98.80 a barrel at 0715 GMT in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 69 cents to close at US$98.89 on Friday.

Brent crude, used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was down 21 cents to US$108 on the ICE exchange in London.

Residents in Crimea voted Sunday overwhelmingly in favor of the split in a referendum that the United States, European Union and others say violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law.

The tensions that are helping boost prices are being countered in recent weeks by worries about slowing demand from China, one of the world's top energy consumers.

In other energy futures trading on Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.5 cent to US$2.945 a gallon.

— Heating oil dropped 1.1 cent to US$2.918 a gallon.

— Natural gas added 8.6 cents to US$4.515 per 1,000 cubic feet.

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