Oil prices were fairly steady below $100 a barrel on Monday as investors awaited comments from the new chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve in the wake of some mixed jobs figures.
Janet Yellen, who last week was confirmed in her role, is due to make remarks to lawmakers Tuesday and traders will be particularly interested to hear anything she says about the withdrawal of the Fed's monetary stimulus.
The central bank has embarked on a policy to reduce it, but the recent jobs data have suggested that the U.S. economic recovery may not be as healthy as seemed. The stimulus in its various guises has helped shore up a number of financial assets over the past few years, including oil prices.
"Markets are expected to be quite jumpy as she testifies to the House Financial Services Committee as her words will influence investors' decisions," said Sam Fox, a trader at Spreadex.
By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark U.S. crude for March delivery was down 41 cents to $99.47 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the Nymex contract jumped $2.04 to close at $99.88.
Oil traders are also keeping a close watch on talks between Iran and six world powers on the Tehran's nuclear program. A new round of negotiations will start Feb. 18 in Vienna. On Sunday, Iran said it would provide international inspectors more information about its nuclear activities.
Elsewhere in oil markets, Brent crude, which is used to set prices for international varieties of crude, was down 22 cents to $109.35 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange in London.
In other energy futures trading in New York:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 0.21 cent to $2.7468 a gallon.
— Heating oil shed 0.82 cent to $3.0421 a gallon.
— Natural gas lost 14 cents to $4.635 per 1,000 cubic feet.