Wednesday 21 February 2018

Trump's Syria attack lifts oil prices and set markets on edge

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City. Photo: Getty Images
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City. Photo: Getty Images
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

The surprise US missile strike against Syria pushed oil prices to a four-week high of $55.57 a barrel yesterday.

Ultimately, US stocks were little changed yesterday, but trading was choppy in New York after the missile strikes sent investors scurrying to safe havens, while weak jobs data also weighed on financial stocks.

US jobs data showed employers there added about 98,000 jobs in March, less than economists' expectation of 180,000, and the weakest growth in 10 months. The jobs numbers hit US financial stocks most. The S&P 500 financial index was down 0.56pc, led by banks.

The news of the Syrian attack sent global stocks lower but most of the losses were pared back after US officials described the mission as a one-off.

Traditionally defensive sectors such as utilities and telecom services were higher. Gold prices hit a five-month high.

Many eyes were on oil, however.

Crude oil finished yesterday almost 5pc higher than at the start of the week after four consecutive days of rising prices and a surge following the US decision to take military action against the Assad regime on Thursday night.

Shakil Begg, head of oil research at Thomson Reuters, said it was clear that military tensions in the Middle East had ratcheted up prices but warned that the market may be turning a blind eye to factors that could drive them lower.

"Crude oil rallied as news that the US launched air strikes against a Syrian airbase overnight raised concerns the conflict in Syria could spill over to affect key oil producers in the Middle East," he said.

Closer to home, the Iseq index closed up 0.52pc at 6,713.98. The gainers included Hostelworld which stormed up 9pc in Dublin despite a lack of newsflow to €3.27 a share, while Aryzta rose 4.5pc to €30.41.

Irish Independent

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