BEIJING — Oil prices surged and most major global stock markets declined Friday after an Iranian general was killed by U.S. forces in Iraq.
Stock indexes in London, Frankfurt and Paris fell, as did Hong Kong's earlier. Shanghai was little-changed and Japanese markets were closed.
News that Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed in an air attack at the Baghdad international airport prompted expectations of Iranian retaliation against U.S. and Israeli targets.
“A big fat dollop of geopolitical uncertainty has landed on investors desks,” said Jeffrey Halley of Oanda in a report.
There was no immediate indication how Iran would respond, but Tehran has seized oil tankers in the past and shot down a U.S. military drone.
The U.S. government blames Iran for attacks on tankers and a September assault on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry that temporarily cut its production by half.
Brent crude, used to price international oils, was $2.48 higher at $68.73 per barrel in London after being up nearly $3 at one point.
Benchmark U.S. crude climbed $2.19 to $63.37 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In Europe, Germany's DAX tumbled 1.7% to 13,154 and Italy's FTSE MIB droped 1.1% to 23,566. Both countries are net oil importers with big manufacturing sectors. France's CAC 40 fell 0.5% to 6,012 while London's FTSE lost 0.3% to 7,584.
On Wall Street, futures for the benchmark S&P 500 index and Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.1%. Both had hit new records Thursday.
In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.3% to 28,451.50. The Shanghai Composite Index was off 1.5 points at 3,083.79. India's Sensex lost 0.5% to 41,413.36 and Singapore also declined.
Seoul's Kospi was up 1 point at 2,176.46 and Australia's S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.6% to 6,733.50.
The price of gold, which investors buy in times of uncertainty as a safe haven of value, was up 1.4% at $1,548.80 per ounce.
Before the escalation in Mideast tensions, investors had been encouraged by expectations of stronger global economic growth in 2020 and the planned signing of an interim U.S.-Chinese trade agreement.
Investors are waiting for Washington and Beijing to formalize the deal that has helped ease market jitters over their 18-month-old fight over China's technology ambitions and trade surplus.
The "Phase 1" pact calls for Washington to roll back punitive tariffs on Chinese goods and for Beijing to buy more American farm products.
This week, President Donald Trump tweeted he will sign the deal at the White House this month.
In currency markets, the dollar declined to 108.09 yen from Thursday’s 108.56 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1140 from $1.1171.