U.S. crude hovers near three-month high as Middle East conflict rages on

File photo showing an international oil tanker passes through the Suez canal in Ismailia, Egypt.
Scott Nelson | Getty Images

U.S. crude oil futures hovered near three-month highs Tuesday as the conflict in the Middle East rages on.

The West Texas Intermediate contract for March fell 4 cents, or 0.05%, to $79.15 a barrel. The Brent contract for April dropped 49 cents, or 0.57%, to $83.08 a barrel. There was no WTI settlement on Monday due to the President’s Day holiday.

U.S. crude gained 3% last week to settle Friday at its highest price, $79.19 a barrel, since Nov. 6. The global benchmark rose 1.5% for the week to settle at its highest price since Jan. 26.

Crude futures gained last week on the conflict in the Middle East after Israel launched strikes in Lebanon and vowed to press on with its offensive in Gaza to the southern city of Rafah. The market largely shook off stubborn inflation in the U.S. and a bearish demand forecast from the International Energy Agency.

Houthi militants on Monday attacked another cargo ship in the Bab el-Mandeb strait, forcing the crew to abandon the vessel. The Iran-allied militants claimed they caused “catastrophic damage” to the ship.

The attack highlights the ongoing threats to commercial vessels in the Red Sea, which has forced shipping giants such as Maersk to divert cargo around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa.

“If anything, Houthis attacks on cargo ships are intensifying in the Red Sea and around the Gulf of Aden,” Tamas Varga, an analyst with oil broker PVM, wrote in a note to clients Tuesday.

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