The News
Thursday 22 of February 2024

Geopolitical Uncertainty Stalks Markets After Spain Attacks

People stand in front of an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo,photo: AP/Koji Sasahara
People stand in front of an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo,photo: AP/Koji Sasahara
The euro was up 0.2 percent at $1.1741 while the dollar fell 0.4 percent to 109.08 yen

An aversion to risk was evident in financial markets Friday after the attacks in Spain. Stock markets around the world were under pressure while traditional safe haven assets, such as gold, were in demand.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 1 percent at 7,316 while France’s CAC 40 fell 1.1 percent to 5,089. Germany’s DAX was 0.5 percent lower at 12,137. Wall Street was poised for a subdued opening with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.1 percent.

BARCELONA ATTACK: The source of the risk aversion gripping markets particularly in Europe was the attacks in Spain. On Friday, police shot and killed five people wearing fake bomb belts who staged a deadly car attack in Cambrils, a seaside resort in Spain’s Catalonia region, just hours after a van plowed into pedestrians on a busy Barcelona promenade. Spanish authorities said the back-to-back vehicle attacks — as well as an explosion earlier this week in a house elsewhere in Catalonia — were related and the work of a large terrorist group. In total, 14 people were killed in the attacks, 13 in Barcelona and one in Cambrils.

TRUMP TROUBLE: More uncertainty over developments in the White House also added to investor pessimism. President Donald Trump abandoned his plans to form an infrastructure advisory council, a day after the administration said it would close down two other advisory councils made up primarily of business leaders. The White House was also forced to issue a statement dispelling swirling rumors that Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, was stepping down, saying they were “100 percent false.”

ANALYST TAKE: “We’re seeing risk aversion in the markets again on Friday, with the possibility of a self-inflicted crisis within Donald Trump’s White House and another terror attack, this time in Barcelona, weighing on risk appetite,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

RISK: Risk aversion traditionally sees supposedly risky assets such as stocks come under pressure, while supposed safe havens, such as gold and the Swiss franc, garner support. The precious metal was up 0.7 percent at $1,300 an ounce.

ASIAN SCORECARD: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 1.2 percent to close at 19,470.41 and South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.1 percent to 2,358.37. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 1.1 percent to 27,047.57, while the Shanghai Composite index ended flat at 3,268.72. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.6 percent to 5,747.10.

CURRENCIES: The euro was up 0.2 percent at $1.1741 while the dollar fell 0.4 percent to 109.08 yen.

ENERGY: Oil prices were little changed, with the benchmark New York rate up 9 cents at $47.18 a barrel. Brent, the international standard, was 8 cents firmer at $51.11 a barrel.