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Crude prices mixed in Asia 

SINGAPORE – Oil prices were mixed in Asian trade Monday after the crisis in Ukraine escalated over the weekend and data showed Chinese manufacturing activity contracted at a faster rate than initially thought.
The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for June delivery, gained six cents to $99.82 in mid-morning trade, while Brent North Sea crude for June dipped 13 cents to $108.46.
Desmond Chua, analyst at CMC Markets in Singapore, said that investors are expecting prices to remain high owing to the worsening crisis in Ukraine which is seen as a proxy battle for influence between US-led Western powers and Russia.
"The markets are on tenterhooks for any further escalation of events in the Ukraine after Sunday's violence," Chua told AFP.
Thousands of pro-Russian protesters attacked police headquarters in the southern city of Odessa on Sunday, days after deadly clashes and a fire there killed dozens of their comrades in what Kiev charged was a Russian plot to "destroy Ukraine".
The unrest in Odessa threatened a new front in the Ukrainian government's battle against pro-Moscow militants, with an expanded military operation under way in the east against gunmen holding more than a dozen towns.
Ukraine is a major conduit for Russian oil and gas exports to Europe, and any disruption in supplies could send prices soaring, analysts say.
However, prices faced downward pressure after banking giant HSBC said Monday its purchasing managers index for China last month came in at 48.1, a tad up from the 48.0 in March but weaker than the 48.3 reported in its preliminary report on April 23.
A figure below 50 indicates contraction while anything above points to growth.
The report is the latest showing the world's number two economy and top energy consumer is slowing down. – Agence France-Presse
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