SINGAPORE, March 14 (Reuters) - U.S. crude steadied above $98 a barrel early on Friday, but was headed for its second-biggest weekly fall this year after a steep rise in U.S. oil stockpiles and Washington’s first test sale of crude from its emergency reserve since 1990.
* U.S. crude for April delivery was off 3 cents at $98.17 a barrel by 0048 GMT, not far off a one-month low of $97.55 reached on Wednesday.
* For the week, the contract has lost 4.3 percent, its steepest since early January, after the U.S. government surprised markets on Wednesday by announcing a test release from its strategic petroleum reserve. The U.S. offered a modest 5 million barrels in what some observers saw as a message from the Obama administration to Russia, whose intervention in Ukraine may disrupt oil supplies from the major producer.
* Brent crude was up 1 cent at $107.40 a barrel, and down 1.5 percent for the week, also its biggest weekly loss since early January.
* Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, showing no sign of backing down on plans to annex its neighbour’s Crimea region despite a stronger than expected drive for sanctions from the EU and United States.
* The U.S. government lifted a ban that excluded BP from new federal contracts, after the British oil major filed a lawsuit saying it was being unfairly penalized for its 2010 Gulf of Mexico spill.
* Asian shares skidded to a three-week low and the yen held steady at lofty levels on Friday, as heightened tension in Ukraine ahead of a weekend referendum prompted investors to shed riskier assets.
1000 Euro zone Q4 unemployment
1355 U.S. University of Michigan sentiment index
Reporting by Manolo Serapio Jr.; Editing by Richard Pullin