U.S. stocks fluctuated, as investors dived into haven assets like gold and the U.S. dollar after deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels killed at least 31 people.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index pared losses, as gains by health-care and technology companies offset declines by transportation stock after explosions rocked a Brussels airport departure hall and a downtown subway station. Treasuries erased gains, while the yield on 10-year German bunds touched the lowest in almost two weeks. The pound dropped against all its major peers amid speculation the blasts may boost the case for Britain leaving the European Union. Gold advanced for the first time in four days.
Two bombs went off in rapid succession at the Belgian airport and an explosion an hour later hit a subway station a short walk from EU headquarters. The incidents, which follow terror attacks in Paris in November and a suicide bombing in Istanbul on March 19, may add to security concerns in Europe as officials attempt to bring an influx of migrants under control. Terrorist incidents including the one in the French capital and London bombings in 2005 spurred equity selloffs that were erased in the following days and weeks.
“The market appears to be more resilient than you’d expect after a terrorist attack,” said Michael Antonelli, an institutional equity sales trader and managing director at Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee. “We’re still in the negative, but I’m shocked we’re not down more. When you wake up to this news, it’s definitely going to put a damper on market sentiment.”
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The S&P 500 added less than 0.1% at 3:04 p.m. in New York, with the gauge trading near its highest level of the year. Transportation stocks posted the biggest decline out of 24 groups, with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Carnival Corp. losing more than 2.2%. Biotechnology and technology hardware companies, such as Apple Inc., Amgen Inc. and Allergan Inc., contributed the most to gains in the benchmark measure today.
Activity was light again in this holiday-shortened week after yesterday marked the lowest volume this year. Trading in S&P 500 shares was 28% below the 30-day average for this time of day. That follows two of 2016’s slowest sessions last Monday and Tuesday before the Federal Reserve meeting. U.S. stock markets will be closed in observance of Good Friday.
European shares recovered most of their intraday losses at the close. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slipped 0.2%, after losing as much as 1.6%. Belgium’s Bel20 Index also pared declines, dropping 0.3%. On Nov. 16, the first day equities traded after the Paris terror attacks, France’s CAC 40 Index ended little changed.
Air France-KLM Group and hotel operator Accor SA slid. Thomas Cook Group Plc dropped 4.3% after also saying 2016 summer bookings have been lower than last year.
The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index, which tracks the greenback against 10 major peers, added 0.2%. The gauge slid 1.3% last week after the Federal Reserve dialed back its outlook for rate increases this year. The presidents of the San Francisco and Atlanta Feds said Monday that tighter borrowing conditions could be warranted as soon as April given improvements in the U.S. economy.
The pound was the worst-performer among 16 major currencies, with Britain due to hold a referendum on European Union membership in June.