Asian markets mixed in aftermath of Iran general’s death

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Asian stocks were mixed Friday and oil prices surged after an Iranian general was killed by U.S. forces in Iraq.

Benchmarks in Shanghai and Hong Kong declined. Australia and some Southeast Asian markets advanced. Japanese markets were closed.

News that Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed in an air attack at the Baghdad international airport prompted expectations of Iranian retaliation against U.S. and Israeli targets.

“A big fat dollop of geopolitical uncertainty has landed on investors desks,” said Jeffrey Halley of Oanda in a report.

Overnight, Wall Street rose to new records, boosted by technology stocks.

Investors were encouraged by expectations of stronger global economic growth in 2020 and the planned signing of an interim U.S.-Chinese trade agreement.

The Shanghai Composite Index












SHCOMP, -0.30%










  shed 0.3% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng












HSI, -0.17%










  lost 0.2%. Taiwan












Y9999, -0.32%










  and Singapore












STI, -0.52%










  also declined.

Seoul’s Kospi












180721, +0.08%










  was unchanged and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200












XJO, +0.69%










 gained 0.7%.

Singapore was down while markets in Malaysia












FBMKLCI, +0.54%










  and Indonesia












JAKIDX, +0.33%










 , both oil producers, gained.

Among individual stocks, oil companies PetroChina












857, +3.31%










  and CNOOC












883, +2.77%










  surged in Hong Kong, while property developers such as Country Garden












2007, -2.33%










  and China Overseas Land Investment












688, -2.28%










  fell. Samsung












005930, +0.36%










  edged up in South Korea, while Beach Energy












BPT, +3.37%










  and Oil Search












OSH, +2.55%










  gained in Australia.

There was no immediate indication how Iran would respond to Soleimani’s death but Tehran has in recent months seized oil tankers and shot down a U.S. military drone.

Washington blames Iran for attacks on tankers and a September assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry that temporarily cut its production by half.

Brent crude












BRNH20, +3.00%










 , used to price international oil, was up $1.93 at $68.18 per barrel in London after temporarily jumping nearly $3. The contract gained 25 cents on Thursday to close at $66.25.

Benchmark U.S. crude












CLG20, +2.86%










  was up $1.69 at $62.87 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 12 cents the previous day to close at $61.18.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index












SPX, +0.84%










  climbed 0.8% to 3,257.85. The Dow Jones Industrial Average












DJIA, +1.16%










  rose 1.2% to 28,868.80. The Nasdaq composite












COMP, +1.33%










  gained 1.3% to 9,092.19.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed out the year Tuesday with their best annual performance since 2013.

Investors are waiting for Washington and Beijing to formalize a trade deal that has helped ease market jitters over the 18-month-old dispute between the world’s two biggest economies.

Washington and Beijing announced a “Phase 1” pact that calls for the U.S. to reduce tariffs and China to buy larger quantities of U.S. farm products.

This week, President Donald Trump tweeted that he will sign the initial trade deal with China at the White House this month.

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