Apr 19, 2024 - Economy

Markets relatively calm amid Israel-Iran hostility

Iranians protest Israel

Iranians protest Israel on Friday. Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images

Usually when bombs are dropping in the Middle East, the market reaction is predictable: Stocks and other risky assets sell off, bonds surge and oil rallies.

The big picture: Those effects haven't been completely absent from conflict between Israel and Iran, but they have been muted, as traders seem to assess that both sides are seeking to keep up guardrails and avoid full-scale war.

Driving the news: Last weekend, Iran and allies launched strikes of military targets in Israel, which were largely stopped with air defense systems. Overnight, Israel struck back against an Iranian military target.

  • Oil and other markets have largely taken the escalation in stride.

By the numbers: The S&P 500 is down and Treasury bonds are up in Friday's trading, as would be expected amid geopolitical strife. But the magnitudes are small, and it looks more like a standard trading day than a large-scale flight-to-quality.

  • As of 2:30pm ET, the S&P 500 was down 0.6% and 10-year treasury yields down about 0.01 percentage points.
  • Oil is up 0.68% Friday, with West Texas Intermediate crude rising 56 cents to $83.29. But that's actually below the levels just before the initial Iranian attack on Israel.

Between the lines: Global markets in recent days have been more responsive to the latest U.S. economic data — and its implications for Federal Reserve rate cuts — than anything happening between Iran and Israel.

  • Both governments have paired bellicose public messaging with limited strikes aimed at military targets, away from urban population centers. That has helped retain market confidence that neither side is looking for a major Middle East war.
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