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Oil Prices Edge Up, Stocks Down After Killing Of Top Iran General

A man prays next to a picture of late Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force, inside a mosque in Ghazieh, January 3, 2020

Oil prices rose and most major global stock markets declined after the shock of a U.S. attack that killed the most important Iranian military commander, Qassem Soleimani in Iraq late Thursday..

Brent crude rose less than three dollars per barrel or around five percent, which is not a big surge given the potential of military escalation in the Persian Gulf region. Brent initially rose $3 but later pulled back to $68.70 per barrel at midday European time.

Any military conflict in the region can endanger flow of oil from Gulf Arab states to customers in Asia and Western countries. All oil tankers have to pas through the narrow Hormuz Straits, which Iran can attempt to close.

Stock indexes in London, Frankfurt and Paris fell, as did Hong Kong's earlier. Shanghai was little-changed and Japanese markets were closed.

In the United Sates stock markets opened lower but the decline was less than one percent. U.S. media attributed the lower open to tensions with Iran after Soleimani's killing.

Before the escalation in 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.