U.S. stocks drove higher as President Donald Trump signaled a move toward de-escalation, saying Iran seemed to be "standing down" from further retaliatory attacks, in his first televised address since a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian commander and Iran responded with a missile attack on U.S. installations in Iraq.
The S&P 500 index rose after Trump started addressing the nation after 11 a.m. ET, reaching an intraday high of 3,260.98, a 0.74% gain. Trump downplayed the impact of missile strikes conducted by Iran late Jan. 7 on two military bases in Iraq where U.S. troops are stationed. The president said there were no U.S. casualties and only minimal damage to the targeted bases.
In overnight trading, the S&P 500 futures were down more than 1.6%.
Meanwhile, crude oil and gold both fell further after Trump made no mention of additional military action against Iran. Brent crude fell 4.4%, to $65.22 a barrel, after climbing 4% overnight in response to the Iranian missile attack as fears of a broader conflict affecting oil supplies drove trade. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 5.2%, to $59.45, after a 4.5% spike in overnight trading.
Gold futures, which tend to rise in times of turmoil in stock or bond markets, surged to $1,600 per ounce in overnight trading before falling 0.9% to $1,560 after Trump's speech.
Capital Economics downplayed the effect of the U.S.-Iran dispute on oil prices. "These conflicts simply haven’t had large enough lasting effects on the global economy to matter much to markets outside the Middle East for long," analyst Oliver Jones wrote. "That looks like the most likely outcome this time too."
In a note released before Trump's speech, Brown Brothers Harriman cautioned that "the risk of a policy mistake will remain high" even Trump had already signaled a move toward de-escalation in a Tweet. The firm's analysts indicated that bitcoin and gold are so far looking like the most effective hedges against geopolitical risk in this conflict.
In his address, Trump announced new economic sanctions against Iran, vowing to maintain pressure until the leadership in Tehran "changes its behavior," though it was unclear what form those additional sanctions would take. He asked NATO member states to become more involved in diplomatic efforts with Iran, while also calling on the other signatories of the Iran nuclear deal to "break away" from it.
"As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon," Trump said, adding that he would be willing to make a new deal with the country.
Trump ended by directly addressing the Iranian people, saying that the U.S. "is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it."
The Iranian strike was in retaliation for the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran's elite clandestine Quds Force, on Jan. 3.