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U.S. stocks are falling as conflict escalates in the Middle East

Published 10/08/2023, 08:06 PM
Updated 10/09/2023, 10:55 AM
© Reuters
- -- U.S. stocks are falling and oil prices are spiking as the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas added geopolitical risk to concerns over elevated inflation and rising interest rates.

At 10:55 ET (14:55 GMT) the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 147 points or 0.4% while the S&P 500 was down 0.5% and the NASDAQ Composite was down 0.9%.

The main indices on Wall Street closed last week on a high, as investors closed out short positions in the wake of a stronger than expected monthly employment report. 

The 30-stock Dow ended Friday almost 300 points, or 0.9%, higher, the benchmark S&P gained 1.2%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed up 1.6%.

Soaring oil prices add to inflationary concerns  

However, this positive tone has disappeared after the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalated to full-blown war over the weekend, as Islamist group Hamas launched an assault on Israel, triggering a violent conflict that left hundreds dead.

This resulted in oil prices surging, rebounding from a drop last week, as the strife deepened political uncertainty in the Middle East and exacerbated supply fears. 

The U.S. crude futures traded more than 4% higher, and the Brent contract was up 3.9%. 

This has fueled concerns that a prolonged crude rally will add to inflationary pressures, which could force central banks around the world to leave borrowing costs higher for a longer period of time.

The rally in crude also lifted energy stocks, with Exxon Mobil Corp (NYSE:XOM) rising more than 3.8% and Chevron Corp (NYSE:CVX) up 2.9%.

September CPI data due this week

Wall Street was already in a delicate state as investors contended with twin worries over inflation and elevated interest rates. Data last week showed a stronger-than-expected surge in the number of jobs added by the American economy during the month, heaping on to these concerns.

There is consumer inflation data for September due later this week, and hot numbers could reinforce the Fed’s message that interest rates need to remain higher for longer. 

August’s CPI report showed the fastest increase in 14 months as the cost of gasoline surged, although core inflation, which excludes food and fuel costs rose at the slowest pace in nearly two years.

Banking giants lead off new earnings season

In corporate news, the third quarter earnings season starts in earnest this week, with banking giants JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) all due to report ahead of the market open on Friday.

Citigroup has already agreed to sell its retail wealth management portfolio in mainland China to HSBC (LON:HSBA), the lenders said in statements on Monday.

Other companies set to report during the week include snacks and beverages giant PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) on Tuesday, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) on Thursday and insurer UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH) on Friday.

Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reported that Nelson Peltz's Trian Fund Management is expected to request multiple seats on the board of Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS), of which it owns around a $2.5 billion stake, with one of those seats reserved for Peltz.

(Oliver Gray contributed to this item.)


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