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Asia markets tumble as violence flares in Iraq; oil and gold prices soar

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Via CNBC

Asia Pacific markets tumbled Wednesday following reports that rockets were fired at an Iraqi airbase that hosts American troops.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 declined 2.13% while the Topix index fell 1.98%. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is said to cancel a scheduled trip this weekend to the Middle East, according to a local broadcaster, Reuters reported.

South Korea’s Kospi index was down 1.24% while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.67%.

U.S. stock futures also plunged on Tuesday night, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures down 343 points and indicated a loss of 365 points at Wednesday’s open.

Chinese mainland markets traded lower: The Shanghai composite index was down 0.44%, the Shenzhen composite fell 0.55% and the Shenzhen component was down 0.37%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 1.16%. In Singapore, the Straits Times index fell 1.31% — Singapore Airlines shares were down 1.55% as the carrier said it is diverting all of its flights in and out of Europe from Iranian airspace.

Military officials in the U.S. told NBC News the Al Asad airbase, located in western Iraq, has come under attack, with multiple projectiles hitting it.

The Pentagon later confirmed the report, saying in a statement: “Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S. military and coalition forces in Iraq. It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil.”

That development came amid U.S.-Iran tensions. U.S. President Donald Trump announced last week that the U.S. had killed Iran’s top military commander in Baghdad, Gen. Qasem Soleimani. Iran promised retaliation after the attack.

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Oil and gold prices jump

Oil prices jumped following news of the development.

U.S. crude futures rose 2.04% to $63.98 a barrel around 10:07 a.m. HK/SIN, after earlier jumping 4%. Global benchmark Brent was up 2.27% to $69.82.

Energy names in the region gained: In Australia, Santos shares were up 2.39%, Oil Search rose 2.17% and Woodside Petroleum added 1.74%.

Spot gold was also up 1.53% to around $1,597 an ounce, after earlier rising above 2%. Gold futures for February delivery were up 1.61% to $1,599.7. The precious metal is considered a safe haven asset.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, fell 0.18% to 96.828, down from an earlier high of 96.852.

The Japanese yen, another safe-haven asset, strengthened against the U.S. dollar, trading at 108.11 around 9:46 a.m. HK/SIN, from an earlier low of 108.52.

The Australian dollar was last at around $0.6871, climbing from an earlier low around $0.6847.


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