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GLOBAL MARKETS-Oil, safe havens surge after U.S. strikes kill Iran commander

Stock Markets Jan 03, 2020 21:36
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© Reuters. GLOBAL MARKETS-Oil, safe havens surge after U.S. strikes kill Iran commander

(Adds oil, gold settlement prices)

* Killing of Iranian commander douses equity market rally

* Oil, gold prices surge after strike in Baghdad

* Scramble for safety boosts yen, Swiss franc, Bunds

* European, U.S. shares fall less than 1%

By Herbert Lash and Marc Jones

NEW YORK/LONDON, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Oil prices surged as much

as $3 a barrel as gold, the yen and safe-haven bonds all rallied

on Friday after the U.S. killing of Iran's top military

commander in an air strike in Iraq ratcheted up tensions between

Washington and Tehran.

Traders were spooked after the death of Major General Qassem

Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force who was also one of

Iran's most influential figures, and by Iranian Supreme Leader

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's vow of revenge.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strike aimed to

disrupt an "imminent attack" that would have endangered

Americans in the Middle East. Oil markets saw the most dramatic moves, with Brent crude

futures leaping as much 4.5% to $69.20 a barrel, the highest

since Saudi crude facilities were attacked in September.

The impact hit almost every asset class. O/R

Europe's broad STOXX 600 index .STOXX fell as much as 1%

and shares on Wall Street almost the same as New Year optimism,

which had pushed equity markets to new records, evaporated.

The yen JPY= rose half a percent against the dollar to a

two-month high, the Swiss franc EURCHF= hit its highest

against the euro since September and gold prices XAU= climbed

to a four-month peak, racing past the key $1,550 an ounce level.

"Geopolitics has come back to the table, and this is

something that could have major cross-asset implications," said

Salman Ahmed, Lombard Odier's chief investment strategist.

"What is critical is how it pans out in the next few days,"

Ahmed said. "Whether it turns into a theme depends on Iran's

reaction and then the U.S. response."

Iran promised harsh revenge. Soleimani's Quds Force and its

paramilitary proxies have ample means to mount a response.

In September, U.S. officials blamed Iran for attacking the

oil installations of Saudi Aramco (SE:2222), the state energy giant and

the world's largest oil exporter. Iran has denied responsibility

for the strikes and accused Washington of war-mongering.

The Trump administration then did not respond, beyond heated

rhetoric and threats, and markets settled down within a week

after Brent surged 14.6%, its biggest one-day percentage gain

since at least 1988.

The U.S. government and others on Friday urged their

citizens in the region either to return home or to stay away

from potential targets and public gatherings. President Hassan Rouhani said the killing would stiffen

Iran's resistance to the United States.

Pompeo said in a round of TV interviews that the United

States remained committed to de-escalation with Iran but that it

had needed to defend itself.

"He (Soleimani) was actively plotting in the region to take

actions - a big action as he described it - that would have put

dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk. We know it was

imminent," Pompeo told CNN.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed

0.36%, while its emerging markets index lost 0.37%.

Stocks on Wall Street opened down 1%, the lowest point of

the session as losses were pared during the session.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 161.52 points,

or 0.56%, to 28,707.28. The S&P 500 .SPX lost 13.49 points, or

0.41%, to 3,244.36 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped

42.35 points, or 0.47%, to 9,049.84.

The global gauge and Wall Street indices set record closing

highs on Thursday, extending the year-end rally in equities into


Brent LCOc1 hit a peak of $69.50 a barrel, its highest

since mid-September, though it later pared some losses to settle

$2.35 higher at $68.60.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 rose $1.87 to

settle at $63.05 a barrel, after earlier spiking to $64.09 a

barrel, its highest since April 2019.


Yields on German Bunds and U.S. Treasuries - the world's

benchmark government bonds that are typically seen as the safest

assets - fell sharply.

The 10-year Bund DE10YT=RR yield fell 7 basis points to a

two-week low of -0.299%, while Bund futures FGBLc1 were up

0.58 percent, at 172.26 euros.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes US10YT=RR rose 26/32 in

price to yield 1.7916%, from 1.882% late on Monday.

Spot gold prices hit a high of $1,553.20 an ounce. U.S. gold

futures GCcv1 settled 1.5% higher at $1,552.40.

The dollar index .DXY rose 0.01%, with the euro EUR=

down 0.04% to $1.1166. The Japanese yen JPY= strengthened

0.51% versus the greenback at 108.03 per dollar.

The focus on geopolitics meant markets paid little attention

to stronger-than-expected data from France, where inflation rose

1.6% year-on-year in December, beating analysts' expectations

for a 1.4% rise.

German inflation figures were also higher, although

unemployment in Europe's largest economy rose more than

expected. The U.S. manufacturing sector contracted in December by the

most in more than a decade, with order volumes crashing to near

an 11-year low and factory employment falling for a fifth

straight month, the Institute for Supply Management said.

Geopolitical tensions rattle world markets


GLOBAL MARKETS-Oil, safe havens surge after U.S. strikes kill Iran commander

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