U.S. stocks moved south on Tuesday, a result of investors’ growing concern from the rising tensions in the Middle East. Iran’s retaliatory step against U.S. troops stationed in Iraq had a huge impact on investors’ sentiment as they now debate the United State’s possible moves ahead.
The three major indexes— the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite — closed in the red on Tuesday. Dow hit 28,583.68 after losing 0.4%, the broader S&P 500 finished at 3,237.18 after declining 0.3% and the Nasdaq Composite closed at 9,068.58 after decreasing 0.03%.
The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) rose 1.4% to close at 14.05 on Jan 7. Finally, decliners outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by a 1.25-to-1 ratio.
Investors Turn Attention to Middle East Crisis
While U.S. stocks didn’t bear the brunt of the rising conflict between the United States and Iran on Monday, Tuesday had a different story to tell. Iran launched more than a dozen missile on Jan 7 against two military bases in Iraq that housed U.S. forces.
This retaliatory move however, for the United State’s assassination of Iran’s top chief Qassem Soleimani last week, grabbed investors’ attention. One of the Iraqi facilities was at Al Asad and another in Irbil. The number of casualties remains unclear so far.
Iran’s attacks came just hours after Soleimani was buried. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said the attack was "a slap in the face" for the United States. Reflecting Khamenei’s words, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani also said Iran's "final answer" to Soleimani's assassination would be to "kick all US forces out of the region".
In a tweet on Tuesday night, Trump said the “assessment of casualties & damages taking place now” and that he would be making a statement on Wednesday morning. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said that although U.S. doesn’t seek to start a war with Iran, but the country is prepared to finish one.
Chevron Hauls Workers Out of Iraq
In a statement issued on Monday, Chevron Corporation CVX said that it was evacuating all of its American oil workers from Iraq. The company called it a "precautionary measure" "for the time being."
Chevron’s ongoing operations are being looked after by local staff in the Kurdistan Region, the oil giant said. Last year, Exxon Mobil XOM had decided to evacuate its foreign staff from the West Qurna 1 oilfield in southern Iraq, according to a Reuters report.
Chevron and Exxon Mobil incurred steep losses on Tuesday, declining 1.3% and 0.8%, dragging the Dow Jones.
According to the Institute of Supply Management, economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector increased in December for the 119th consecutive month. The ISM’s non-manufacturing index climbed to 55% last month from November’s reading of 53.9%.
Although employment in the non-manufacturing sector declined marginally in December, prices were unchanged. The rise in economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector is largely a result of the resolution in U.S.-China trade conflict.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, new orders for manufactured goods in November decreased $3.6 billion to $493 billion. New orders for manufactured durable goods in the month also declined $5.2 billion to $242.2 billion.
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