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Safe-Haven ETFs Rally on Middle-East Unrest

Sweta Jaiswal, FRM

Asian markets are ruffled by escalating Middle-East tensions. The S&P 500 Index fell 0.7% on Jan 3. Accordingly, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index lost 0.2% day and Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.3%.

On the day, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport, following direct orders from President Donald Trump. Top Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes was also killed on the way to the airport. The air strike followed the siege of the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad after which the United States deployed about 750 U.S. soldiers in the Middle East (read: Iraq Attack: Sector ETF Winners and Losers).

The uncertainty in market conditions is increasingly adding to the appeal of safe-haven picks like gold, bonds and yen. In fact, the 10-year Treasury yields are observed to be declining, having lost 9 basis points on Jan 3, gold has climbed to the highest level in more than six years and the yen has touched a three-month high.

Middle-East Tensions Flare Up

The Middle-East tensions are estimated to escalate as a retaliation to the attack is being expected from Iran. Moreover, Iran has announced plans to not follow the limits on its enrichment of uranium. Iraq has asked American and other foreign troops to leave the country as well. However, in response, the United States has warned to impose sanctions on Iraq.  Trump has also announced that the United States has shortlisted 52 Iranian sites it would target in case of a retaliation (read: Country ETFs to Top/Flop on US Air Raid at Baghdad).

ETFs to Snap Up

Treasury Bonds 

iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF TLT

Heightened global uncertainty brings this safe asset into the limelight. Fed rate cuts this year and geopolitical concerns may drive treasury valuation. Apart from TLT, investors can consider 25+ Year Zero Coupon U.S. Treasury Index Fund ZROZ  and Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury ETF EDV (read: 10 Most Heavily Traded ETFs of 2019).



Gold is often viewed as a safe-haven asset offering protection against financial risks and may perform well on heightened market volatility (read: Most Loved/Hated ETFs of the Fourth Quarter).

Apart from GLD, investors can consider iShares Gold Trust IAU, another popular choice in this space.

Invesco CurrencyShares Japanese Yen Trust FXY

The Japanese currency yen is often considered a classic safe-haven asset that has gained some strength of late. Japan’s huge holdings of foreign assets help it to gain the safe-haven status among investors. Investors can target this currency via FXY, which measures the value of yen against the greenback (see: all the Currency ETFs here).

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iShares Gold Trust (IAU): ETF Research Reports
PIMCO 25+ Year Zero Coupon U.S. Treasury Index ETF (ZROZ): ETF Research Reports
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT): ETF Research Reports
Invesco CurrencyShares Japanese Yen Trust (FXY): ETF Research Reports
Vanguard Extended Duration Treasury ETF (EDV): ETF Research Reports
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD): ETF Research Reports
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