The specter of a potential armed conflict with Iran loomed over the stock market Friday which closed with triple-digit losses but off the worst levels of the session.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, trimmed a loss of over 300 points, to finish the session at 235.07 or 0.8 percent. The Nasdaq Composite and the S&P 500 slipped around 0.7 percent.
Oil, traditionally the most volatile commodity in times of Mideast tensions, saw upticks most of Friday. West Texas Intermediate crude closed up 3.1 percent at $63.05 a barrel. The global benchmark, March Brent crude saw similar gains with a rise of 3.6 percent and a close at $68.60 per barrel.
Energy stocks, which opened higher as a group, ended the session mixed.
It was not all bleak on the exchanges as shares of defense contractors Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin were up more than 5 percent and 4 percent respectively after the team at Citigroup noted that rising tensions in the region could validate the need for a bigger defense budget.
As has happened in the past, investors made a flight to safety amidst rising tension, abandoning anything seen as a risky asset for long-standing safe havens, such as gold and U.S. Treasuries. The yield on the 10-Year slipped to 1.792 percent.
In other corporate news, Tesla shares rose to a record after reporting that deliveries exceeded expectations.
While concern about the Mideast remained paramount, other factors were at play for the market downturn. Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s December meeting were released. While the minutes revealed a sense of optimism regarding the economy and ease in U.S.-China trade tensions, but there were also concerns about slow growth.
To that end, Friday also saw worse-than-expected U.S. manufacturing data. The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing purchasing managers index fell to 47.2 percent, its lowest number in more than 10 years.