First Published: 2017-04-07

US attacks on Syria send shockwaves through global markets
Analysts say investors flocking to safety, causing gains in likes of gold, yen.
Middle East Online

LONDON - Global markets shook Friday, with stock indices largely downbeat but oil, gold and the yen higher after US missile strikes on Syria fanned geopolitical concerns.

In a busy day for markets, investors were awaiting key US monthly jobs data while keeping a watch over a second day of summit talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump.

"News of last night's attack sent shockwaves through the markets, with investors flocking to safety, causing gains in the likes of gold and the yen," said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG trading group.

"A big surge in crude prices overnight were caused primarily by the prospects of an increasing US military involvement in the Middle East."

Trump ordered a huge assault on an airfield in retaliation for a chemical attack in Syria that Washington blamed on President Bashar al-Assad.

The attack came just hours after Russia warned that there could be "negative consequences" if the US took military action against Syria, which it is backing in a civil war.

"The untimely news of the US missile strike, coupled with tonight's impending US non-farm payrolls, have created increased anxiety among investors," Gary Huxtable, client adviser at Atlantic Pacific Securities, said in a note.

The US-China summit is meanwhile taking place after months of accusations by the US tycoon that Beijing was killing US jobs and manipulating its currency.

- Seeking a safe haven -

Also on the agenda is North Korea, with Washington concerned about the country's growing nuclear programme following a series of missile launches, the most recent coming this week.

On trading floors Friday, gold hit a near five-month high at $1,269.53 an ounce.

"Demand for safe havens has... pushed bonds, precious metals and both the yen and Swiss franc higher", said Accendo Markets analyst Mike van Dulken.

The euro dropped to 117.32 yen in Asian trading hours, the lowest level for more than four months.

Oil prices reached one-month highs as the attacks led to concerns about supplies in the Middle East.

That helped shares in energy firms rise around the world and pushed London's commodities-heavy FTSE 100 index into positive territory.

Weighing on the benchmark index were weaker-than-expected UK industrial production data that sparked concerns about weak growth overall for Britain's economy as it embarks on EU-exit negotiations.

Analysts were looking ahead also to Friday's official US Labor Department jobs report, which is expected to show that the world's biggest economy added 215,000 jobs in March and that unemployment held steady at 4.7 percent.

US stocks recovered Thursday from a sell-off the previous day spurred by Federal Reserve meeting minutes suggesting a more aggressive monetary tightening policy than the market had anticipated.

 

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