Taliban fighters took over the Afghan capital as President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad, triggering a massive effort to airlift Western diplomats, civilians and Afghans likely to be targeted by the country’s new rulers.
At least three people were killed by gunfire Monday morning at the passenger terminal of Kabul’s international airport, where thousands of Afghans who fear for their lives after the Taliban takeover of the country have swarmed in hopes of getting an evacuation flight.
Witnesses reported seeing the prone, bloodied bodies lying on the ground just outside the terminal building. Officials at the U.S. Central Command weren’t immediately available for comment.
However, the impact to the stock market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA , the S&P 500 index SPX and the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP trading at or near record highs, is unclear.
Futures, however, were tilting lower, with those for the S&P 500 ESU21 ES00 , the Dow YMU21 YM00 and the Nasdaq-100 NQU21 NQ00 all showing modest declines, but hardly indicating that the market’s bull run amid COVID-19 was in jeopardy.
For the most part, stock-market investors have been mostly sanguine amid the long-running conflict that has cost an estimated $2.261 trillion, according to research from Brown University’s Watson Institute of International Public Affairs, which also estimates that 241,000 people have died as a direct result of the war.
The Dow is up by nearly 270%, the S&P 500 has gained more than 300% and the Nasdaq Composite has climbed more than 700% since the fall of 2001.
It’s worth noting that the benchmark 10-year was yielding between 4% and 5% around that time.
Historically, military conflict doesn’t always have an impact on stocks, and war’s influence, if any, on investors’ psyches isn’t always clear-cut. The context and economic and market environments are often a bigger driver.
The U.S. was already in the throes of a recession when the attacks of 9/11 hit and the market initially dipped sharply after the attacks.
Markets currently are attempting to claw back from the hit caused by COVID-19 and the spread of the delta variant, with questions about the policy plans by the Federal Reserve, and other central banks, at the front of investors’ minds.
Still, military aggressions may result in some investors turning to bets on defense contractors, which could see a boost if the animosities flare up.
One popular way to play defense contractors broadly is the iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ITA exchange-traded fund, which was created in 2006 and is up 13.7% in 2021 thus far. The SPDR S&P Aerospace & Defense ETF XAR , which kicked off in 2011, is up 7% year to date
But don’t be surprised if the market’s reaction to the possibility of military tensions is counterintuitive. Markets don’t always respond to geopolitical events the way you think.