World markets were jolted after initial reports of the murder of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani by US forces in Iraq surfaced. Key global crude blend prices surged, with Brent gaining 2.94% and reaching a price of $68.67 per barrel, even passing $69 at one point, while WTI futures gained 3.19% and landed on a price of $63.31 per barrel.
European stock markets reacted negatively on the news of a new escalation in the Middle East. Germany’s DAX index plummeted by 1.4%, while futures on the Europe-wide index EURO STOXX 50 dove by 1.08% with both drops occurring as markets opened in the aftermath of the US strike.
American stock markets also fell after opening, with the S&P 500 losing 0.81% in the first two hours of trading and the NASDAQ 100 index dropping by 0.7% during the same time.
Asian markets were not spared by the events either, with the FTSE China A50 index futures falling 1.21% and Korea Composite Stock Price (KOSPI) index diving by 0.98% after the US attack that killed Soleimani.
Gold, in turn, considered a safe asset in times of crisis by investors worldwide, gained 1.18%, rising to $1,548.30 per ounce soon after news of the US operation in Iraq surfaced.
Edward Moya, an analyst at the brokerage OANDA, opined in an interview with Reuters that the surge in oil prices was caused by concerns that "tensions [could] continue to elevate between the US and Iran-backed militia in Iraq", one of the biggest oil producers in the OPEC group. Tapas Strickland, director of economics and markets at National Australia Bank, in turn, noted in an interview with the news agency that it remains "unclear" what impact the killing of Soleimani will have on the markets, but added that "it all hinges on what Iran does in terms of retaliation".
US Airstrike Claims Life of Iranian Top General
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike on 3 January near Baghdad International Airport, along with prominent members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces, who once helped repel Daesh’s* invasion of the Middle Eastern state.
The US claimed that it acted in order to defend its diplomatic staff in Iraq against Soleimani's alleged plans to organise attacks against them. Iran and Iraq both condemned the US airstrike. Iranian leaders have vowed that the American "crime" will be avenged soon.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia