By Colleen Howe
BEIJING (Reuters) – Oil prices steadied in early Asian trading on Monday after sharp falls last week, amid continued efforts to reach a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while the US planned new attacks on Iran-backed groups. Is.
Brent crude futures rose 8 cents to $77.41 a barrel at 0131 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures were flat at $72.28 a barrel.
Both benchmarks closed down about 7% last week. They fell 2% on Friday after stronger-than-expected US jobs data suggested interest rates could be cut more than expected, and progress in ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas.
However, investors remained wary of any escalation in the Middle East conflict after the US hinted at further attacks on Iran-backed groups in the Middle East in response to a deadly attack on US troops in Jordan.
The US also continued its campaign against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, carrying out 36 strikes on Saturday against the group, whose attacks on shipping vessels have disrupted global oil trade routes, although supplies have remained largely unaffected.
“Given that U.S. military strikes avoid directly attacking Iran, we think Israel-Hamas ceasefire talks will have a more effective impact – thereby reducing Middle East tensions,” said Vivek Dhar, a commodities analyst at Commonwealth Bank. “
“Oil markets will likely respond by reducing the risks of supply disruption in the Middle East,” he said in a client note on Monday, adding that this is likely to keep Brent futures below $80 a barrel.
On Friday, the US Justice Department announced sanctions-evasion charges and seizures linked to an oil smuggling network that it says finances Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
It seized more than 520,000 barrels of sanctioned liquor…