REUTERS - Wall Street looked set to open lower on Tuesday after explosions in Brussels sparked fresh geopolitical concerns and sent investors scurrying for safe-haven assets.
At least 26 people were killed in twin attacks on Brussels airport and a rush-hour metro train in the Belgian capital, triggering security alerts across western Europe.
European markets fell, while traditional safe havens gold and government bonds firmed up as reports of the events in the de facto capital of the European Union unfolded. Airline and travel-related stocks were the worst hit.
Shares of American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Continental Holdings, JetBlue Airways, and Spirit Airlines were down between 3.3 percent and 1.6 percent in premarket trading.
Delta and United Airlines rerouted Brussels-bound flights to other locations following the attacks.
Gold rose 1 percent to $1,255 an ounce, while oil prices were swept lower.
“With economic growth so tepid around the world, including in the United States, the susceptibility to any type of terrorist attacks could highlight the market’s fragility,” said James Abate, chief investment office of Centre Funds in New York.
Markets have reacted negatively to terrorist attacks such as the one in Paris last November, before quickly recovering.
S&P 500 e-minis were down 8.25 points, or 0.4 percent, with 239,184 contracts traded at 8:38 a.m. ET (1238 GMT). Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 20.5 points, or 0.46 percent, on volume of 29,476 contracts and Dow e-minis were down 47 points, or 0.27 percent, with 35,182 contracts changing hands.
Cruise operator Carnival Corp’s shares were down 3.7 percent at $47.93, while travel-website operator Expedia was off 3 percent at $107.50 and peer Priceline fell 2.6 percent to $1315.50.
For financial markets, the events in Brussels come at a time when liquidity is starting to dry up ahead of the Easter holiday and investors are planning to cash in on a steep rally in stocks over the last few weeks.
The S&P 500 has risen about 8 percent in the past five weeks and is about 4 percent away from its all-time high.
“We’re getting to the point in time where we’re overbought in the short run. I wouldn’t be surprised heading to the long weekend if we saw some profit taking,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.
The Brussels attacks eclipsed encouraging economic data out of the euro zone, while Asian shares had faltered earlier over hints from U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers about an earlier-than-expected increase in interest rates.
Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar and Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru,; Editing by Don Sebastian