US strikes on Syria boost oil, defense stocks

US strikes on Syria boost oil, defense stocks

NEW YORK: Wall Street stocks finished modestly lower Friday following a disappointing US jobs report, while Pentagon missile strikes on Syria lifted defense shares and oil prices.

Gold prices, a traditional safe haven in times of turbulence, also rallied following the Syria action, while global stock markets were mixed.

The Labor Department reported that the US added just 98,000 jobs in March, far below the expected amount, while unemployment fell to 4.5 percent, its lowest level in nearly 10 years.

But the report was upstaged by President Donald Trump's move on Syria, which came as Trump met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for the first time in a closely watched summit at the president's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Trump's decision to order military strikes on Syria plunges Washington deeper into the country's tragedy, although officials said it does not mark a new strategy to oust President Bashar al-Assad by force.

US stock futures fell sharply on the news, but then recovered somewhat as the market viewed the US strikes "as an isolated incident without any meaningful economic impact," analyst Patrick O'Hare said.

"The message of the market was that the attendant risks related to Syria are still within acceptable tolerance levels," he said.

But others saw lingering effects, with gold prices hitting a five-month high and oil prices also rising.

"A strong sense of unease infiltrated the financial markets, with investors staying clear of riskier assets," said FXTM analyst Lukman Otunuga. "The possible threat of geopolitical tensions heightening from the airstrikes has created a risk-off trading atmosphere." (APP)