NEW YORK, April 22 (Reuters) - U.S. crude futures fell on Tuesday ahead of data expected to show that inventories in the world's top oil-consuming nation have risen close to record highs.
Brent also fell but was cushioned by continued concerns of an escalation in the standoff in Eastern Ukraine that could lead to further Western sanctions against Russia and disrupt supplies from one of the world's biggest producers.
The disproportionate fall of West Texas Intermediate crude futures led to the widening of the Brent-WTI spread by more than a dollar. U.S. crude settled at $102.13, down $2.24 a barrel, or more than 2 percent. Brent crude settled at $109.27, down 68 cents.
The May U.S. crude oil contract expires at the end of Tuesday making the June contract the new front month. But June futures settled almost 2 percent lower, at $101.75 a barrel.
Analysts said in the absence of a major escalation in Eastern Ukraine, where separatists still hold government buildings in defiance of a peace accord struck last week, attention instead has turned to U.S. crude oil inventories.
Stocks in the country are approaching all-time highs - after building 10 million barrels in the week ending April 11 they reached 394 million barrels, close to the record 398 million barrels hit last year.
The Energy Information Administration will issue inventory data on Wednesday while American Petroleum Institute data is due later on Tuesday. Analysts polled by Reuters think 2.7 million barrels were added to stocks last week.
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