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by Martin Abbott on October 11, 2023

Unpacking the Israel-Hamas Conflict: Implications for Global Markets

As the Israel-Hamas conflict simmers on, global financial markets may be unwittingly downplaying the profound economic and geopolitical consequences of what some experts are terming an ‘extended war.’ Beyond the headlines of missile strikes and ceasefires, a deeper analysis reveals a complex web of regional tensions, shifting alliances, and economic vulnerabilities that could have far-reaching implications for investors and businesses alike. In this article, we delve into the potential impact on energy markets, regional stability, and the broader global economy, shedding light on why the conflict merits a closer examination by financial experts and the international community.

Markets and Geopolitical Risks Amid the Israel-Hamas Conflict

In the wake of the recent attacks on southern Israel by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, financial markets seem relatively unperturbed. However, astute observers warn that several significant risks stemming from the conflict have yet to be fully factored into market dynamics.

While the market reaction may have been muted, the implications of the Israel-Hamas conflict extend far beyond what meets the eye. It has the potential to affect global economies and geopolitics in various ways, and investors should remain vigilant.

Analysts from BNY Mellon have issued a warning that the ongoing persistence of the conflict could provoke concerns about potential disruptions in oil supply, which, in turn, might drive up the demand for safe-haven assets such as gold, the U.S. dollar, and the Swiss franc. This situation arises from the unpredictability of a protracted conflict, which could lead to unforeseen economic consequences.

Hamas initiated a coordinated assault on Israel, involving simultaneous incursions on multiple fronts, including land, sea, and air offensives. This offensive followed the firing of thousands of rockets from Gaza into Israel.  Such actions not only raise immediate security concerns but also have wider implications for financial markets.

The practice of flocking to safe-haven assets during times of conflict is not new. Following the attacks, oil prices experienced a 4% surge, though these gains were subsequently offset in the following trading sessions. Gold prices also increased by slightly over 1% since the attack, and yields for benchmark U.S. Treasurys dropped by approximately 13 basis points to 4.657%.

What sets this conflict apart is its potential to be extended. Israel’s financial stability, robust budget, and GDP suggest that it can endure an extended war, possibly spanning over eight weeks. Bob Savage, who serves as the Head of Markets Strategy and Insights at BNY Mellon, highlights that the worldwide financial markets have yet to completely integrate the potential inflationary risks stemming from factors such as elevated oil prices and heightened defense expenditures. Additionally, the question of foreign aid directed towards Israel might become a prominent issue, further intensifying its financial repercussions.

This prolonged conflict also amplifies the call for increased military spending globally. The consequences of such a move could include reductions in savings and higher interest rates, which, in turn, may have repercussions on financial markets.

Beyond inflationary pressures, there is a risk of a wider conflict that looms large. The unprecedented nature of Hamas’ attack has raised concerns about potential involvement by Iran, given its historical support for Hamas. Accusations of Iran’s involvement could lead to an escalation of the conflict, putting markets in a risk-off mode.

Bob McNally, who holds the position of President at the Rapidan Energy Group, underscores the significant role played by Iran in this particular situation. In the event that Israel or the United States openly attribute direct responsibility to Iran, it could result in additional spikes in oil prices.  This would also lead to a flight to safety, with the U.S. dollar becoming the preferred asset, resulting in adverse effects on vulnerable economies and currencies.

Despite Iran’s mission to the United Nations denying involvement, the unresolved nature of this issue raises the specter of more significant escalations, compounding economic risks. Alpine Macro, a worldwide investment research organization, has stated that although the course of the conflict remains uncertain, there is a strong likelihood of escalation, potentially fostering a notably risk-averse global climate in the coming months. In such risk-averse conditions, there is typically a heightened appetite for bonds and gold, accompanied by a trend of divesting stocks.

The most extreme scenario involves Israel targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities, which could cause oil prices to surge well beyond $150 per barrel. The situation is complex and interconnected, with broader geopolitical implications that could profoundly affect financial markets.

At the time of publication, casualties on both sides continue to mount, further highlighting the severity of the conflict. While some argue that markets will ultimately overlook this conflict, it’s essential to recognize that the Israel-Hamas conflict carries implications that reach far beyond the battlefield. As financial markets navigate through this tumultuous period, the potential for unforeseen economic consequences remains ever-present.

How Does This War Change Future Prognosis for Trading Markets

The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict can significantly influence the future of trading markets in several ways, though it’s important to note that these are speculative scenarios based on historical trends and market behaviors:

  • Energy Market Volatility: Instability in the Middle East often leads to fluctuations in energy prices. If the conflict escalates or spreads to other countries in the region, it could disrupt oil supplies, leading to price spikes. For instance, during the Gulf War in the early ’90s, oil prices skyrocketed. Such price volatility could impact trading in energy-related assets like crude oil futures and energy company stocks.
  • Safe-Haven Asset Demand: Investors tend to seek refuge in safe-haven assets like gold and government bonds during times of geopolitical uncertainty. The demand for these assets can drive their prices higher. For instance, the prices of gold and U.S. Treasuries experienced upward momentum during past crises. Traders could capitalize on this demand by investing in these assets or related financial products.
  • Currency Markets: The potential for a conflict involving Iran may lead to an increase in the demand for the U.S. dollar, given its status as a global safe-haven currency. This could lead to a stronger dollar relative to other currencies. Currency traders might adjust their portfolios in response to these fluctuations.
  • Defense and Military Stocks: Increased defense spending, either due to a prolonged conflict or the fear of a broader regional conflict, could positively impact stocks in the defense and military sectors. Companies involved in defense technology, weapons manufacturing, and related industries might see increased trading activity.
  • Geopolitical Risk Premium: The overall level of geopolitical risk in the Middle East can influence the risk premium investors require when investing in assets related to the region. Market participants might demand higher returns on investments in companies with significant exposure to this area.

While these scenarios are speculative, they are grounded in historical precedents. Trading markets are sensitive to geopolitical events, and the Israel-Hamas conflict, with its potential to escalate, could have far-reaching effects on a variety of asset classes and trading strategies. Traders should remain vigilant and adapt their approaches in response to evolving developments in the conflict and their impacts on global markets.

By Martin Abbott

Martin has been a Trader for 5 years now. He has experience in trading Forex, stocks, and cryptocurrencies. His insight on news and brokers has been refining for the past 3 years. His close connection to the markets enables him to write amazing copy for all of his readers.

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