| 21 June 2024, Friday |

Retreat from risk boosts ‘safer’ havens as Middle East conflict intensifies

As traders retreated from market risk as the war in the Middle East grew, global shares declined on Friday while assets seen as safer havens, like gold and U.S. Treasuries, climbed.

The Stoxx 600 share index in Europe (.STOXX) declined 0.4% while MSCI’s broadest index of global equities (.MIWD00000PUS) dipped 0.3%.

But the real action in markets on Friday was outside of equities, with gold on course for its best week since a U.S. banking crisis in mid-March and oil set for a strong weekly gain.

On Friday, the Israeli military called for civilians to leave Gaza City ahead of an anticipated ground invasion in response to devastating attacks by Hamas militants at the weekend.

Hamas’ armed wing Al-Qassam Brigades also said it had launched 150 rockets towards the city of Ashkelon in Israel “in response to the displacement and targeting of civilians”.

While markets would “review this situation on a daily basis,” Royal London Asset Management head of multi-asset Trevor Greetham said, “one scenario is that the oil price does rise significantly,” in response to the potential of supply disruptions in the region.

Brent crude oil futures jumped 2.7% on Friday to $88.29 a barrel, on track for a 4.3% advance this week.

Oil is also benefiting from the U.S. tightening its sanctions programme against Russian crude exports, as well as the inconclusive investigations, so far, about damage to a key Baltic Sea gas pipeline.

U.S. crude oil futures rose 2.6% to $88.20 a barrel.

Spot gold gained 0.8% on Friday to $1,885 an ounce, set for a gain of 2.4% over the week.

In bond markets, U.S. Treasuries caught haven buying despite strong U.S. inflation data on Thursday that increased market jitters about the Federal Reserve hiking interest rates again this year.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury dropped 7 basis points (bps) to 4.639%. Germany’s 10-year Bund yield fell 4 bps to 2.74%.

Overall, euro area long-dated bond yields were on course for their steepest weekly fall since mid-July as the prices of the core government debt instruments rose.

The risk-off mood also prevailed in the currency market, with the dollar holding on to most overnight gains. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar eased 0.122% to 106.5, having gained 0.8% overnight.

The dollar’s ascent has again put the Japanese yen under pressure, with the yen at 149.7 per dollar , close to levels where the Bank of Japan has previously intervened to strengthen the currency.

In Asia, where markets are caught between worries of higher dollar borrowing costs and a slowdown in China’s economy, MSCI’s index of equities outside Japan (..MIAPJ0000PUS) fell 1.2%, remaining in negative territory for the year-to-date.

Data on Friday showed China’s consumer prices were flat in September, while factory-gate prices shrank at a slower pace, indicating deflationary pressures persist, while exports and imports continued to contracted, albeit at a somewhat slower pace.

  • Reuters