Global crude oil prices surged early Friday after the U.S. and U.K. launched strikes targeting military infrastructure used by Houthi rebels in Yemen on Thursday night, raising concerns about a widening conflict in the Middle East that could further disrupt commercial shipping in the Red Sea.
Global benchmark Brent crude futures rose more than 2.5% early Friday, before settling at $79.20 per barrel—up around 2.3% from the previous day.
U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate futures were also up nearly 2.6%, rising to $73.90 per barrel.
The spike in prices comes amid persistent concerns about an expanded conflict in the Middle East and continued disruption of crude shipments from the region due to Houthi attacks on commercial shipping along the Red Sea route.
The Pentagon announced Thursday that U.S. and U.K. militaries had launched airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen in response to the Iran-backed militia’s targeting of ships in the Red Sea. Australia, Bahrain, Canada, and the Netherlands also provided logistical and intelligence support for the strikes. President Joe Biden called the strikes a “direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks…[that] have endangered U.S. personnel, civilian mariners, and our partners, jeopardized trade, and threatened freedom of navigation.” Biden said the U.S. and its partners acted in self-defense and “will not hesitate to defend lives and protect the free flow of commerce” in the Red Sea. The strikes came hours after Houthi leaders warned attacks by the U.S. or its allies “won’t go unpunished.”
Houthi officials said at least five people were killed and six were injured in the strikes. Both Iran and Russia have come out strongly against the U.S. and U.K. led military action with the Kremlin calling it an effort to “provoke destabilization of the situation in the entire Middle East region.”