Oil prices surge, stocks slip after US kills Iranian general

Financial Markets
Posted at 9:20 AM, Jan 03, 2020

Stocks fell broadly on Wall Street in early trading Friday and oil prices surged after U.S. forces in Iraq killed a top Iranian general.

Financial stocks fell the most as investors bought up U.S. government bonds, sending their yields lower. Technology and health care companies also took heavy losses as the market pulled back from record highs. Energy stocks rose the most as the price of U.S. oil climbed 3.6%. Defense contractors also notched gains.

Benchmark U.S. crude climbed $2.18 to $63.33 per barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, moved $2.41 higher to $66.68 per barrel.

The selling followed a broad decline in markets overseas following news that Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran's elite Quds Force, was killed in an air attack at the Baghdad international airport early Friday.

President Donald Trump said the attack was ordered because Soleimani was plotting to kill many Americans. The strike marks a major escalation in the conflict between Washington and Iran, as Iran vowed "harsh retaliation" for the killing of the senior military leader.

The price of gold, which investors buy in times of uncertainty as a safe haven of value, was up 1.5% at $1,551 per ounce.

The sell-off erased the benchmark S&P 500 index's gains for the week.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 was down 0.8% as of 10:21 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 241 points, or 0.8%, to 28,627. The Nasdaq dropped 0.8% and the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gave up 0.9%.

BOND YIELDS: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.82% from 1.88% late Thursday. Lower bond yields bring down the interest rates that banks charge for mortgages and other consumer loans, making them less profitable. That prompted a sell-off in bank shares. JPMorgan slid 1.5%, Bank of America dropped 2% and Citigroup lost 1.7%.

TURBULENCE: Airlines slumped as oil prices rose sharply. American Airlines Group dropped 4.7%, United Airlines Holdings slid 3.7% and Delta Air Lines lost 3%.

BETTING ON DEFENSE: Heightened tensions with Iran helped lift the stocks of defense contractors. Northrop Grumman climbed 4.4% and Lockheed Martin gained 2.8%.

In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.3%, while India's Sensex lost 0.5%. Australia's S&P-ASX 200 gained 0.6%. Japanese markets were closed.