It’s always useful to have a sense of Middle Eastern history, as financial markets swirled following the news of the U.S. airstrike that killed a prominent Iranian general in Baghdad.
So let’s go way back to…September, when an unprecedented drone attack on Saudi Arabia oil processing facilities cut the country’s production in half.
shot up some $8 a barrel, the largest one-day rise in history, and analysts speculated that prices could climb further. Within days, however, those gains were erased, and investors became comfortable enough with the security situation that Saudi Aramco
later in the year was even able to go public.
All of which is to say that, as the term “World War III” trends on Twitter, that could be but isn’t necessarily the fate. Tensions could even de-escalate from here.
Henry Rome, an analyst at Eurasia Group, expects Iran to retaliate for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani but stopped short of calling his death the next Franz Ferdinand.
“We expect moderate to low level clashes to last for at least a month and likely be confined to Iraq. Iranian-backed militias will attack U.S. bases and some U.S. soldiers will be killed; the U.S. will retaliate with strikes inside of Iraq,” he wrote in a note to clients. “Iran will also likely resume harassment of commercial shipping in the Gulf and may launch military exercises to temporarily disrupt shipping.” Another risk is an “asymmetric” response — a euphemism for terrorism — akin to the 1992 attack on an Argentine Jewish community center.
But Rome doesn’t expect a full-blown war, noting Tehran’s “healthy respect” for U.S. power and President Donald Trump’s aversion to war in the Middle East. Rome says oil prices could “make a run at $80” if the conflict spreads to the oil fields of southern Iraq or if Iranian harassment of shipping intensifies.
Iraq is OPEC’s number-two producer, with more than double Iran’s output.
Another interesting analysis came from Ciovacco Capital Management, which looked at S&P 500 performance after one-day spikes in oil prices. Between 1983 and 2019, the stock-market index climbed nearly 23% after one year, following the biggest spikes.
The bulk of the market attention was on the Middle East after the U.S. airstrikes.
There’s also a key report on the U.S. economy in the form of the Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index, which is due at 10 a.m. Eastern, and Fed minutes, which come at 2 p.m. There’s also a number of Federal Reserve officials speaking at a San Diego economics conference.
The action was hot and heavy on Friday.
Up are crude-oil futures
with the WTI contract trading around $64 a barrel, and gold rose
with the yellow metal surging some $23 an ounce. Bonds also drew a bid, as yields on the 10-year Treasury
fell 6 basis points. Yields move in the opposite direction of prices.
U.S. stock futures
took a battering, while European stocks
also fell, though less dramatically. In Europe, airline stocks including Air France-KLM
were bruised while oil producers such as BP
rose. In U.S. premarket trade, the same reaction was seen, with early gains for drilling contractor Transocean
and losses for American Airlines
Before entering the Oval Office, Trump tweeted a number of times that his predecessor, Barack Obama, would start a war with Iran to get re-elected.
The Carnegie Middle East Center states “we appear to be caught in a logic of war.”
Here’s a paper on Iran’s networks of influence in other countries.
The New Yorker had a well-written profile of Soleimani from 2013.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal said Soleimani was in U.S. crosshairs in 2007 — and he decided not to pull the trigger.
Why Iraq is a failed state.
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