Wall Street Declines on Middle East Conflict
Wall Street’s main indexes fell on Monday as a deepening conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas roiled global markets and pushed investors toward safe-haven assets, while crude prices jumped around 4%.
Israel said its troops backed by helicopters had killed a number of armed infiltrators entering the country from Lebanon, raising fears fighting could spread two days after Hamas gunmen burst in from Gaza on a deadly rampage.
The Israeli military said it had called up an unprecedented 300,000 reservists and was imposing a total blockade of the Gaza Strip, signs it could be planning a ground assault.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the United States will send multiple military ships and aircraft closer to Israel as a show of support.
At 11:33 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 13.18 points, or 0.04%, at 33,394.40, the S&P 500 was down 6.67 points, or 0.15%, at 4,301.83, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 75.77 points, or 0.56%, at 13,355.57.
The CBOE volatility index, Wall Street’s “fear gauge”, also rose to 18.54, reflecting investor anxiety.
A recent surge in U.S. Treasury yields had pressured equities. The U.S. bond market was shut on Monday for Columbus Day.
Major technology stocks Apple, Microsoft, Nvidia and Amazon.com fell between 0.2% and 2.7%.
Traditional safe-haven assets including gold and the U.S. dollar gained, while crude prices increased.
“It’s not surprising that the market would open with considerable volatility given these shocking events over the weekend and the speculation as to whether or not this will evolve into something more complicated,” said Peter Andersen, founder of Andersen Capital Management in Boston.
Energy was the top S&P 500 sector gainer, jumping 3.6% and on track for its best single-day performance in six months.
United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines suspended direct flights to Tel Aviv. The airlines’ shares were down around 5% each, dragging the S&P 500 Passenger Airlines index down 4.5% to its lowest in a year.
Defense companies Northrop Grumman, RTX, General Dynamics, L3harris and Lockheed Martin rose between 4.3% and 8.7%. The broader S&P 500 Aerospace & Defense index jumped 4.9%.
Consumer discretionary and consumer staples stocks were the worst hit on Monday.
Exchange-traded funds exposed to Israel including iShares MSCI Israel ETF and the ARK Israel Innovative Technology ETF slid 7.8% and 4.6%, respectively.
For the week, key inflation readings including September’s producer price and consumer price indexes, as well as the Federal Reserve’s September meeting minutes will be in focus.
Tesla fell 2.5% as data showed the company’s China-made EV sales volume for September decreased 10.9% from a year earlier.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.20-to-1 ratio on the NYSE, while declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.61-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded four new 52-week highs and 18 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 24 new highs and 236 new lows.