Financial markets reflect risk aversion after Spain attacks

An aversion to risk was evident in financial markets Friday after the attacks in Spain. Stock markets around the world were under pressure while traditional safe haven assets, such as gold, were in demand.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 1 per cent at 7,316 while France’s CAC 40 fell 1.1 per cent to 5,089. Germany’s DAX was 0.5 per cent lower at 12,137. Wall Street was poised for a subdued opening with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.1 per cent. Canada’s main stock index futures were lower on Friday. September futures on the S&P TSX index were down 0.14 per cent at 7:15 a.m. ET.

BARCELONA ATTACK: The source of the risk aversion gripping markets particularly in Europe was the attacks in Spain. On Friday, police shot and killed five people wearing fake bomb belts who staged a deadly car attack in Cambrils, a seaside resort in Spain’s Catalonia region, just hours after a van plowed into pedestrians on a busy Barcelona promenade. Spanish authorities said the back-to-back vehicle attacks — as well as an explosion earlier this week in a house elsewhere in Catalonia — were related and the work of a large terrorist group. In total, 14 people were killed in the attacks, 13 in Barcelona and one in Cambrils.

TRUMP TROUBLE: More uncertainty over developments in the White House also added to investor pessimism. U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned his plans to form an infrastructure advisory council, a day after the administration said it would close down two other advisory councils made up primarily of business leaders. The White House was also forced to issue a statement dispelling swirling rumours that Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, was stepping down, saying they were “100 per cent false.”

ANALYST TAKE: “We’re seeing risk aversion in the markets again on Friday, with the possibility of a self-inflicted crisis within Donald Trump’s White House and another terror attack, this time in Barcelona, weighing on risk appetite,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

RISK: Risk aversion traditionally sees supposedly risky assets such as stocks come under pressure, while supposed safe havens, such as gold and the Swiss franc, garner support. The precious metal was up 0.7 per cent at $1,300 an ounce.

ASIAN SCORECARD: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 1.2 per cent to close at 19,470.41 and South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.1 per cent to 2,358.37. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 1.1 per cent to 27,047.57, while the Shanghai Composite index ended flat at 3,268.72. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.6 per cent to 5,747.10.

CURRENCIES: The euro was up 0.2 per cent at $1.1741 while the U.S. dollar fell 0.4 per cent to 109.08 yen. The Canadian dollar weakened against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday, as White House drama and the attack in Barcelona reduced investor appetite for the loonie after it hit a nearly two-week high earlier in the day. At 4 p.m. ET Thursday, the Canadian dollar was down 0.4 per cent to 78.89 US..

ENERGY: Oil prices were little changed early Friday, with the benchmark New York rate up 9 cents at $47.18 US a barrel. Brent, the international standard, was 8 cents firmer at $51.11 US a barrel.

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