Markets Surge: Bin Laden's Death as an Economic Indicator

News of the U.S. raid boosted stocks and lowered gold and oil

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When it was announced last night that U.S. forces had killed Osama bin Laden, there was jubilation. Joyful crowds poured into public spaces in New York City, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, and cheers erupted in living rooms worldwide. The glee wasn't confined to the television-watching public. Stock markets around the globe have risen on the news, even though bin Laden's death had little to no direct impact on any economy.

The main reason for the jump is that bin Laden's death is seen as a concrete victory in the war on terror and a solid contribution to a safer world. In addition, it's a boost to many traders on Wall Street who survived the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"It is an emotional trade for stocks," James Newman, head of U.S. government and agency trading in New York at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc., told the Wall Street Journal. James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management, echoed the sentiment in USA Today: "It's bullish short term, both to celebrate … and also to reflect the likely long-run stability introduced by killing the head of this terror movement," he said.

In Europe, where markets opened earlier than in New York, investors also celebrated, but it was muted thanks to holidays in Britain, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Marketplace's Stephen Beard pointed out this morning that, in addition to rising stock prices, safe-haven precious metals such as gold and silver have fallen as investors seek out riskier, higher-return vehicles such as stocks. "And the hope is bin Laden's death will lead to less tension in the Middle East, so that's reduced the price of oil. And has also created a general feeling that this will help boost consumer confidence a bit in the United States. And that has helped lift the dollar," Beard said.

But traders acknowledged early on that the boost would probably be short-lived. Tradition Energy broker Gene McGillian told the Journal, "This is good news for the U.S. and Europe, but the problems are still there." Those problems include ongoing turmoil in Libya and Egypt that has jacked up oil prices over the last few months. Here are the numbers from this morning, courtesy of the Journal: "The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose about 60 points to 12,870. Oil fell 41 cents to $113.52 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after dropping as low as $110.82 a barrel earlier in the session.

The dollar, which has been on a downward trend for months, rose a little against safe-havens like the Japanese Yen, but as Mark McCormick, currency strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman, pointed out in the Journal, even enthusiasm spawned by bin Laden's death won't affect currency markets much. "The drivers are interest rates and the policy divergence between major central banks."

When the initial jubilation of last night's news wears off, the economic conditions that have made for a difficult global economic recovery will still exist. The Guardian brings words of caution for those feeling overly excited:

Analysts said after a temporary boost markets will focus on more fundamental matters again, in particular the progress of the global economic recovery and how central banks respond to higher inflation.

Ric Spooner, market strategist at CMC markets, warned: "There's a danger this could be a bit of a false spike in the market. We are struggling to see the logic of it. I guess it's based on euphoria, a feeling that it takes away a reason for international tension. But it's difficult to see really the logic behind it being an ongoing rally."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.