Oil stays above $102 a barrel amid push for Israel-Gaza cease-fire, EU sanctions on Russia

The price of oil inched further above $102 a barrel Wednesday amid a new push for a cease-fire between Israel and Palestine and after Europe imposed additional sanctions on Russia that fell short of a heavy hit.

By early afternoon in Europe, the benchmark U.S. oil contract for September delivery was up 20 cents to $102.59 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Tuesday, the contract slipped 47 cents.

Brent crude for September delivery, a benchmark for international oils, was up 43 cents to $107.76 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

The price of oil has stayed above $100 a barrel after a civilian jetliner was shot out of the sky last week over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists and as Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip added to risks of instability in the Middle East.

Still, prices have been fluctuating within a relatively narrow band in the past few days, as “sentiment on the oil market is relaxed despite the many sources of geopolitical tension,” said analysts from Commerzbank in Frankfurt in a note to clients.

On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Tel Aviv, seeking to renew a push for a cease-fire after an earlier proposal by Egypt was rejected. A Hamas rocket exploded Tuesday near Israel’s main airport, prompting a ban on flights from the U.S. and many from Europe and Canada as aviation authorities responded to the shock of seeing a civilian jetliner shot down over Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the European Union slapped new sanctions on Russian individuals on Tuesday, but didn’t impose penalties that would disrupt energy supplies from Russia.

Traders are also awaiting official data on U.S. stockpiles of crude oil and refined products. The American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that crude inventories dropped by 555,000 barrels last week, far less than the fall of 2.6 million barrels expected by analysts surveyed by Platts, the energy information arm of McGraw-Hill Financial.

The report from the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration — the market benchmark — will be out later Wednesday.

In other Nymex trading:

— Wholesale gasoline was steady at $2.852 a gallon.

— Heating oil gained 1.37 cents to $2.877 a gallon.

— Natural gas added 1 cent to $3.782 per 1,000 cubic feet.