Wall Street stocks end lower after US attack kills Iran general, Dow down 0.8%

VIDEO: REUTERS
A man holds a picture of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with Iranian Revolutionary Guards Major-General Qasem Soleimani (left) during a demonstration in Teheran.
A man holds a picture of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with Iranian Revolutionary Guards Major-General Qasem Soleimani (left) during a demonstration in Teheran.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks ended a winning streak of records to finish solidly lower on Friday (Jan 3), as Iran vowed to avenge the US killing of one of its top military commanders in Baghdad.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.8 per cent to end the session at 28,634.88.

The broad-based S&P 500 dropped 0.7 per cent to 3,234.85, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.8 per cent to close at 9,020.77.

Major indices had closed at records on Thursday, but the US attack on Qasem Soleimani - and Iran's threat to avenge his death - shook the market out of a state of contentment that has produced numerous records in recent weeks.

In Washington, a Pentagon official said the US would deploy at least 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East as Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei promised "severe revenge" for the death of the military mastermind.

The killing of Soleimani represents "a significant spike in geopolitical risks and could lead to a direct confrontation between the US and Iran," Oxford Economics said in a commentary.

Stocks were in the red the whole day, while oil prices rallied.

Still, the moderate size of the equity market losses suggested investors recalled the pullbacks following earlier violent events in international hotspots did not prove lasting, said Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert Financial Services.

"It's like previous geopolitical events and it doesn't change the broader dynamic of the market, which is that investors are feeling good because the economy is better than expected, the trade war is easing and the Fed is being supportive," he said.

Defense-oriented stocks were big gainers, with Lockheed Martin winning 3.6 per cent, Northrop Grumman 5.4 per cent and Raytheon 1.5 per cent.

Petroleum-linked stocks Schlumberger and Apache gained 1 per cent or more, while United Airlines lost 2.1 per cent and American Airlines sank 5 per cent.

Tesla Motors jumped 3 per cent after reporting higher fourth-quarter car sales, while General Motors and Fiat Chrysler dropped 2.8 per cent and 3.9 per cent, respectively, after reporting lower sales over the same period.