US stocks ended higher on Wednesday, but the day’s uneven path showed investors’ sensitivity to any signs of turmoil in the Middle East, with stocks rising on comments by President Donald Trump and paring gains on reports of blasts in Baghdad.

Trump spoke at a White House briefing after Iran’s missile strikes overnight on military bases housing US troops in Iraq. The US president said the strikes had not harmed any Americans and that Tehran appeared to be standing down. Comments earlier from Iran’s foreign minister that the country did not seek an escalation and a tweet from Trump that ‘All is well!’ also helped calm investor jitters.

Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit record intraday highs, but major indexes cut their gains late in the day following reports of two blasts heard in Baghdad. After the bell, Iraq’s military said two rockets had fallen inside Baghdad’s Green Zone but there were no casualties. The Nasdaq registered a record high close and most S&P 500 sectors rose, while the S&P 500 energy index fell 1.7 per cent as oil prices slumped.

Global markets have been rattled by concerns about rising tensions in the Middle East after the US killing of influential Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani on 3 January. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 161.41 points, or 0.56 per cent, to 28,745.09, the S&P 500 gained 15.87 points, or 0.49 per cent, to 3,253.05, and the Nasdaq Composite added 60.66 points, or 0.67 per cent, to 9,129.24.


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