Crude oil futures held weaker in early Asia on Monday as investors monitored events in Yemen and looked ahead to U.S. jobs data later in the week. On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil for delivery in May fell 0.74% to $48.15 a barrel. Last week, crude oil futures plunged sharply on Friday to give back most of the previous session’s gains, as fears over an imminent disruption to supplies from the Middle East faded despite ongoing turmoil in Yemen. Elsewhere, on the ICE Futures Exchange in London, Brent for May delivery dropped $2.78, or 4.7%, on Friday to settle the week at $56.41 a barrel by close of trade. Global oil prices spiked by more than three dollars on Thursday after Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Gulf region allies launched air strikes in Yemen to counter Iran-backed Houthi rebels besieging the southern city of Aden. Yemen is strategically located on the Bab el-Mandeb, a strait that connects the Gulf of Aden with the Red Sea. Approximately 3.8 million barrel per day of crude and oil products flow through the strait. Industry research group Baker Hughes (NYSE:NYSE:BHI) said Friday that the number of rigs drilling for oil in the U.S. fell by just 12 last week to 813. Market players have been paying close attention to the shrinking rig count in recent months for signs it will eventually reduce the glut of crude flowing into the market. However, total U.S. crude oil inventories stood at 466.7 million barrels as of last week, the most in at least 80 years, indicating that cheap prices have yet to affect output. The dollar showed little reaction after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen struck a cautious note on interest rates. In a speech, the Fed chief said a rate hike may be warranted later this year, but added that weakening inflation pressures could force the Fed to delay. The speech echoed the Fed’s latest policy statement, released on March 18, which indicated that it may raise interest rates more gradually than markets had expected. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported Friday that the U.S. economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.2% in the fourth quarter, unchanged from the preliminary estimate and below economists’ forecasts for an upward revision to 2.4%. Another report showed that the final reading of the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index ticked down to 93.0 this month from a final reading of 95.4 in February. In the week ahead, investors will be turning their attention to Friday’s U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for further indications on the strength of the recovery in the labor market. Oil traders will also continue to monitor developments surrounding talks between Iran and world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program. Any sign of a deal between Iran and world powers could result in a flood of Iranian crude returning to the market. On Monday, the U.S. is to release reports on personal spending and pending home sales.