US strikes on Syria keep a lid on global stocks but gold up
Soft U.S. jobs data and the decision by President Donald Trump to authorize the firing of U.S. missiles into Syria weighed on global stock markets Friday. The strikes though pushed gold prices higher as investors sought out the sanctuary of supposedly safe haven assets in a time of geopolitical uncertainty.
KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany’s DAX was down 0.5 percent at 12,169 while the CAC 40 in France fell 0.3 percent to 5,106. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.1 percent higher at 7,309. Wall Street was poised for a lower opening, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.2 percent.
AIRSTRIKES: Overnight, the U.S. launched a missile attack in Syria, directly targeting President Bashar Assad’s forces. Though the move was condemned by his allies in Russia and Iran, it was welcomed by the Syrian opposition and its supporters, who expressed hope it signaled a turning point in the devastating six-year-old civil war. For markets, the move has stoked geopolitical uncertainty and that’s rarely positive for riskier assets, such as stocks.
ANALYST TAKE: "A strong sense of unease infiltrated the financial markets during trading on Friday with investors staying clear of riskier assets," said FXTM Research Analyst Lukman Otunuga. "The possible threat of geopolitical tensions heightening from the airstrikes has created a risk-off trading atmosphere."
SAFE HAVENS: That risk-off trading atmosphere was evident in the performance of gold, which is trading 1 percent higher at $1,265 an ounce.
ENERGY: Oil prices jumped on concerns the airstrikes would re-ignite Middle East turmoil, the world’s major oil-producing region. U.S. benchmark crude added 37 cents to trade near one-month highs of $52.07 a barrel, while Brent crude, the international standard, rose 27 cents to $55.16 a barrel in London.
OVERSHADOWING JOBS DATA: The overnight developments have overshadowed the monthly U.S. nonfarm payrolls data, which often set the market tone a week or two after their release. The news that the U.S. economy only generated 98,000 jobs last month stoked some concerns about the state of the world’s largest economy following some recent bumper gains.
U.S.-CHINA SUMMIT: The strikes came as Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping opened a high-stakes summit in Florida. Tensions over trade and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions are among big topics on the agenda for the first meeting between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies. Trump appeared lighthearted as he greeted Xi ahead of a dinner on Thursday evening before the two were to tackle specifics the next day.
GREECE PROGRESS: Greece and its international creditors took a big step toward an agreement that will ensure the cash-strapped country gets the money it needs in time to avoid a potential bankruptcy this summer. For months, the bailout discussions have stalled amid disagreements over what reforms, including to pensions, tax and the labor market that Greece should take in order to get the rescue money due from its most recent international rescue. Without the money, Greece would once again be facing the prospect of having to exit the eurozone.
ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.4 percent to end at 18,664.63 after dipping earlier in the day. The Shanghai Composite index added 0.2 percent to 3,286.62. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.1 percent to 2,151.73. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was almost flat at 24,267.30 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 recouped earlier losses to end 0.1 percent higher at 5,862.50. Southeast Asian indexes were mixed.
CURRENCIES: The euro was flat at $1.0640 while the dollar fell 0.4 percent to 110.35 yen.