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Stocks tumble after Iran attacks bases housing US troops in Iraq

Stocks tumbled Wednesday after Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases that house US forces.

Asian markets dipped sharply as traders reacted to the news, but later recovered some lost ground as investors eased off piling into safe havens.

Japan’s Nikkei closed down 1.2%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1%. China’s Shanghai Composite shed 1.2%.

Major markets in Europe opened in negative territory. Germany’s DAX gave up 0.5% and London’s FTSE 100 dipped 0.4%.

Dow futures were down about 110 points, or 0.4%, recovering from a loss of more than 400 points earlier. Futures for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq slid 0.3%.

Safe-haven assets were stronger, though they were coming off earlier highs. The Japanese yen was last up 0.1% to 108.44 yen per US dollar. Gold briefly topped $1,600 per ounce before pulling back.

The recovery shows that the market is “taking some comfort” in the lack of immediate retaliation from the US military, said Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader.

The missile attacks were Iran’s response to the US killing last week of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani — one of the country’s most powerful men — in Baghdad. Iran had called that attack an “act of war” and “state terrorism” and vowed a response.

That has amplified concerns about a spiraling tit-for-tat conflict between the United States and Iran.

Another analyst warned that there could still be repercussions that could affect oil supply, air travel and even the US-China trade deal.

A potential closure of the Strait of Hormuz, for example, would “severely disrupt” oil supplies from the Middle East, said Jeffrey Halley, Oanda’s senior market analyst for Asia Pacific.

The channel is the only way to move oil from the Persian Gulf to the world’s oceans. Attacks last year in the nearby Gulf of Oman caused a temporary surge in oil prices.

Oil prices climbed sharply Wednesday before pulling back. US crude futures were last up 0.4% to around $62.90 per barrel. Futures for Brent crude, a global oil benchmark, advanced 0.4% to $69.64 a barrel.

Halley also pointed out that airline traffic could be disrupted if tensions escalate.

“Airline stocks will be out of favor today because of oil, but that won’t be the whole story,” he added.

What’s more, he suggested that the signing of the initial US-China trade agreement could be delayed. US President Donald Trump said last month that he would sign that agreement on January 15 in Washington.

— CNN’s Veronica Rocha, Hamdi Alkhshali and Nectar Gan contributed to this report.