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Markets hold steady as Middle East crisis appears at impasse

By Marianne Curphey

Holiday firm TUI hit by concerns over rising tension but calm returns for now

Fears that tensions in the Middle East might spill into outright war appeared to have abated, helping to steady world stock markets and bring much-needed calm to the futures markets.

The continuing conflict between the US and Iran, which had spooked markets earlier in the week, seemed to have reached an impasse.

Nevertheless, shares in holiday firm TUI fell 4.79 per cent, making it one of the top losers, as traders feared that rising tension in the Middle East could affect holidays to the region. The holiday company dropped 47p to 924p.

Shares in Boeing were also hit after the crash in Tehran airport of a Boeing 737 in the early hours of the morning, adding further to the aircraft makers' current woes. The company, which fired its chief executive just before Christmas amid the grounding of the 737 Max fleet, fell 1.7 per cent to US$ 331 in midday US trading.

A number of airlines, including Air France, KLM, Qantas, Lufthansa and Emirates, have said they are suspending flights over Iraqi and Iranian airspace, or cancelled flights.

However, S&P 500 futures recovered from their turmoil of the previous evening, with gold, a safe haven asset, up 0.06 per cent at 1,575. Crude oil was trading at 61.79, a rise of almost 1 per cent, after its earlier rises on the MidEast tension.

European and US markets opened more calmly after the earlier turmoil. The biggest faller in the UK's FTSE 100 index was NMC Healthcare. It fell 15 per cent after two of its biggest shareholders sold a significant stake.

The FTSE 100 overall recovered its early losses to finish marginally up at 7,574.93 (a rise of 0.01 per cent or 1.08 points).The FTSE 250 ended lower at 21,651.92, a fall of 180.76 points (0.83 per cent). In Europe the Dax ended up 93.35 (0.71 per cent) at 13,320.48 and the CAC40 was up 18.65 (0.31 per cent) at 6,031.

Bitcoin had a good day, rising 1.61 per cent to close at £6,332. By midday US time the Dow Jones had risen 0.05 per cent to 28,598 and the S&P was up 0.1 per cent to 3,240.

Further reading: Boeing 737 crashes at Tehran airport

Further reading: Oil prices surge after Iran fires missiles at US bases in Iraq

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