GLOBAL MARKETS – Oil up on Iran Tensions, Stocks Hover at Seven-Week Highs

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK, June 21 (Reuters) – Oil prices built on recent gains on Friday on fears any U.S. military attack on Iran would disrupt flows from the Middle East, while a gauge of global stock markets hovered near seven-week highs following a run spurred by optimism over monetary policy.

Gold prices climbed to near six-year highs and were on track for their best week in three years.

Central banks have dominated economic news this week, with the Federal Reserve signaling the potential for a U.S. interest rate cut later this year and the European Central Bank hinting at stimulus measures.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.09%, after a day earlier reaching its highest level since May 1.

U.S.-China trade tensions were also in focus ahead of an expected meeting between the countries’ two leaders next week.

U.S. stocks had gained steam after a Wall Street Journal report said U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will postpone his planned speech on China policy next week to avoid stoking additional tensions ahead of President Donald Trump’s planned meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The main U.S. indexes were little changed in afternoon trade. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 43.72 points, or 0.16%, to 26,796.89, the S&P 500 lost 0.77 points, or 0.03%, to 2,953.41 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 7.80 points, or 0.1%, to 8,043.54.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 0.36%.

Trump said he had aborted a military strike on Iran because such a response to Tehran’s downing of an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone would have caused a disproportionate loss of life.

Spot gold added 0.6% to $1,395.94 an ounce, surpassing the key $1,400 level during the session.

“There is a perfect mix of ingredients for gold’s rush to the top – a weak macroeconomic environment, low bond yields, soft dollar and rising geopolitical tensions,” said Howie Lee, an economist at OCBC Bank.

Oil futures rallied on fears of a disruption to flows in the Middle East, which provides more than a fifth of the world’s oil output.

“A lot of the oil produced in the world comes from very troubled areas, and occasionally we get reminders of that,” said Gene McGillian, vice president at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

U.S. crude rose 0.68% to $57.46 per barrel and Brent was last at $65.15, up 1.09% on the day.

Government bond yields in the United States and Europe rose but remained near record or multi-year lows after the dovish statements from the central banks.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes last fell 19/32 in price to yield 2.0661%, from 2.001% late on Thursday.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, fell 0.25%, with the euro up 0.46% to $1.1343.

The yen rose to a five-month high versus the dollar during the session the tensions between Iran and the United States.

(Additional reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault in New York, Abhinav Ramnarayan in London, Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru, editing by Hugh Lawson and Susan Thomas)