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Mon 11/16/2020 12:25:21 AM

At least 56 killed in stampede at general’s funeral, as Iran vows revenge on U.S.

‘We’re going to war, bro’: Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne deploys to the Middle East

Venezuela’s Guaido pushes past troops to enter congress after socialist takeover

Chip rally helps European shares rise amid geopolitical tensions

White House contender Warren, drawing on academic background, proposes bankruptcy reform

Austria’s Kurz back in power with Greens after far-right fiasco

VW’s Seat brand chief steps down as Renault continues CEO hunt

Sony to test self-driving cars to boost sensing, safety technologies

Dollar gains, oil slips as markets focus on Mideast

Energy, healthcare shares keep a lid on Wall Street, Iran concerns linger

General Qassem Soleimani’s burial began in the early evening in the southeastern Iranian city of Kerman, four days after his killing in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq that plunged the region into a new crisis and raised fears of broader conflict.

“A few minutes ago his body was transferred to the martyrs section of Kerman cemetery,” the semi-official news agency ISNA reported, adding that Soleimani’s interment had begun.

Soleimani, who commanded the elite Quds Force, was responsible for building up Tehran’s network of proxy armies across the Middle East. He was a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran’s long-standing campaign to drive U.S. forces out of Iraq.

A senior Iranian official said Tehran was considering several scenarios to avenge his death. Other senior figures have said the Islamic Republic would match the scale of the killing when it responds, but that it would choose the time and place.

Tuesday’s stampede broke out amid the crush of mourners, killing 56 people, state television said, raising the toll from 50 previously. More than 210 people were injured, an emergency services official told the semi-official Fars news agency.

“Today because of the heavy congestion of the crowd unfortunately a number of our fellow citizens who were mourning were injured and a number were killed,” emergency medical services chief Pirhossein Kolivand told state television.

Soleimani was a national hero to many Iranians, whether supporters of the clerical leadership or not, but viewed as a dangerous villain by Western governments opposed to Iran’s arc of influence running across the Levant and into the Gulf region.

Iran’s opponents say its proxies have fueled conflicts, killing and displacing people in Iraq, Syria and beyond. Tehran says any operations abroad are at the request of governments and that it offers “advisory support”.

Soleimani’s body had been taken to Iraqi and Iranian cities before arriving in Kerman for burial.

In each place, huge numbers of people filled thoroughfares, chanting “Death to America” and weeping with emotion. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wept as he led prayers in Tehran.

The U.S. defense secretary denied reports Washington was preparing to withdraw troops from Iraq, where Iran has vied with Washington for the upper hand since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

About 5,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, where there has been a U.S. military presence since Saddam Hussein’s fall.

Some members of the 29-nation NATO alliance said they were moving some of their personnel that have been training Iraqi security forces out of the country as a precaution amid fears of a regional conflagration.

“We will take revenge, a hard and definitive revenge,” the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, General Hossein Salami, told the throngs in Kerman before the stampede.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said 13 “revenge scenarios” were being considered, Fars news agency reported. Even the weakest option would prove “a historic nightmare for the Americans”, he said.

Iran, whose coastline runs along a Gulf oil shipping route that includes the narrow Strait of Hormuz, has allied forces across the Middle East through which it can act. Representatives from those groups, including the Palestinian Islamist Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, attended funeral events in Tehran.

Despite its strident rhetoric, analysts say Iran will want to avoid any conventional military conflict with superior U.S. forces and is likely to focus on asymmetric strikes, such as sabotage or other military action via proxies.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to target 52 Iranian sites if Iran retaliates for Soleimani’s killing.

Iraq’s parliament, dominated by lawmakers representing Shi’ite Muslim groups who have been united by the killing of Soleimani alongside an Iraqi Shi’ite militia leader, passed a resolution on Sunday calling for all foreign troops to leave.

Caretaker Prime Minister Abdel Abdul Mahdi told the U.S. ambassador to Baghdad the resolution must be implemented.

Friction between Iran and the United States has risen since Trump withdrew in 2018 from a nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, approved by his predecessor Barack Obama, and reimposed sanctions on Tehran slashing its vital oil exports.

The Islamic Republic said on Sunday it was dropping all limitations on its enrichment of uranium, its latest step back from commitments to the 2015 deal.

Trump’s U.S. political rivals have challenged his decision to order the killing of Soleimani and questioned its timing in a U.S. election year. His administration said Soleimani was planning new attacks on U.S. interests, without giving evidence.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again defended the decision at a Washington news conference on Tuesday, saying attacks allegedly planned by Soleimani “were going to lead, potentially, to the death of many more Americans”.

Pompeo also held Soleimani responsible for a Dec. 27 rocket attack in Iraq in which a U.S. civilian contractor was killed.

Trump administration officials will provide a classified briefing on developments in Iraq and Iran on Tuesday at 4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT) for congressional leaders and Republican and Democratic leaders of the intelligence committees, House of Representatives aides said. Administration officials will provide another briefing for U.S. senators on Wednesday.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Reuters) – For many of the soldiers, it would be their first mission. They packed up ammunition and rifles, placed last-minute calls to loved ones, then turned in their cellphones. Some gave blood.

The 600 mostly young soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were headed for the Middle East, part of a group of some 3,500 U.S. paratroopers ordered to the region. Kuwait is the first stop for many. Their final destinations are classified.

“We’re going to war, bro,” one cheered, holding two thumbs up and sporting a grin under close-shorn red hair. He stood among dozens of soldiers loading trucks outside a cinder-block building housing several auditoriums with long benches and tables.

Days after President Donald Trump ordered the drone killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, raising fears of fresh conflict in the Middle East, the men and women of the U.S. Army’s storied 82nd Airborne Division are moving out in the largest “fast deployment” since the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

The 82nd’s commander, U.S. Army Major General James Mingus, waded through the sea of camouflage-uniformed men and women as they prepared to leave the base near Fayetteville on Sunday. He shook hands with the troops, wishing them luck.

One soldier from Ashboro, Virginia, said he wasn’t surprised when the order came.

“I was just watching the news, seeing how things were going over there,” said the 27-year-old, one of several soldiers Reuters was allowed to interview on condition they not be named. “Then I got a text message from my sergeant saying ‘Don’t go anywhere.’ And that was it.”

While the killing of Soleimani has ratcheted up tensions between the United States and Iran, it remains to be seen whether they will escalate to full-out conflict.

Trump last week said he ordered the killing to stop a war, not to start one. [nW1N28K000] And despite Tehran’s strident rhetoric, analysts say Iran will want to avoid any conventional conflict with the United States and is likely to focus on asymmetric strikes, such as sabotage or other military action via proxies. [nL8N29C2NJ]

Risks seemed to be pushed to the back of the minds of the younger soldiers, though many packed the base chapel after a breakfast of eggs, waffles, oatmeal, sausages and 1,000 doughnuts.

One private took a strap tethered to a transport truck and tried to hitch it to the belt of an unwitting friend, a last prank before shipping out.

The older soldiers, in their 30s and 40s, were visibly more somber, having the experience of seeing comrades come home from past deployments learning to walk on one leg or in flag-draped coffins.

“This is the mission, man,” said Brian Knight, a retired Army veteran who has been on five combat deployments to the Middle East. He is the current director of a chapter of the United Service Organizations military support charity.

“They’re answering America’s 911 call,” Knight said. “They’re stoked to go. The president called for the 82nd.”

There was lots of wrestling holds as the troops tossed their 75-pound (34 kg) backpacks onto transport trucks. The packs hold everything from armor-plated vests, extra socks and underwear, to 210 rounds of ammunition for their M4 carbines.

A sergeant pushed through the crowd shouting for anyone with Type O blood, which can be transfused into any patient.

“The medics need you now. Move,” he said, before a handful of troops walked off to give a little less than a pint each.

While members of the unit – considered the most mobile in the U.S. Army – are used to quick deployments, this was different, said Lieutenant Colonel Mike Burns, an Army spokesman.

“The guys are excited to go, but none of us know how long they’ll be gone,” Burns said. “That’s the toughest part.”

Soldiers were ordered not to bring cellphones, portable video games or any other devices that could be used to communicate with friends and family back home, out of concern that details of their movements could leak out.

“We’re an infantry brigade,” Burns said. “Our primary mission is ground fighting. This is as real as it gets.”

A sergeant started rattling off last names, checking them off from a list after “heres” and “yups” and “yos.”

For every fighter, there were seven support crew members shipping out: cooks, aviators, mechanics, medics, chaplains, and transportation and supply managers. All but the chaplains would carry guns to fight.

A 34-year-old senior master sergeant said: “The Army is an all-volunteer force. We want to do this. You pay your taxes and we get to do this.”

The reality of the deployment wouldn’t sink in until the troops “walk out that door,” he said, pointing to the exit to the tarmac where C-5 and C-17 transport planes and two contract commercial jets waited.

His call came when he was on leave in his hometown of Daytona Beach, Florida, taking his two young daughters to visit relatives and maybe go to Walt Disney World.

“We just got there and I got the call to turn right around and head back to base,” he said. “My wife knows the drill. I had to go. We drove right back.”

On a single order, hundreds of soldiers jumped to their feet. They lined up single file and marched out carrying their guns and kits and helmets, past a volunteer honor guard holding aloft flags that flapped east in the January wind.

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan security forces let U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido enter the legislative palace on Tuesday amid a showdown for control of parliament after the ruling socialist party installed its own rival congressional chief.

Guaido, who was re-elected on Sunday to a second one-year term as head of the opposition-held congress, had pledged to preside over Tuesday’s opening session after security forces blocked him from the building over the weekend to allow socialist legislators to swear in their own speaker.

Local television images early Tuesday showed Guaido arguing for half an hour with troops wielding riot shields who again blocked the entrance to the legislative building, but eventually allowed him to push past them.

“This is not a barracks. This is the house of laws,” Guaido told the soldiers blocking his entrance. “The military does not get to decide who can enter the house of laws.”

But inside, a brief session led by Luis Parra – who was sworn in by allies of President Nicolas Maduro as parliament chief Sunday – had already ended, according to Reuters witnesses.

Parra’s swearing in on Sunday gave Maduro sway over the last major state institution that had remained outside his control and appeared to mark a setback to Washington’s efforts to unseat him.

The gambit marked an escalation in Maduro’s crackdown on the opposition, whose key international ally – the Trump administration – has so far been unsuccessful in its year-long attempt to oust Maduro through economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure.

U.S. special envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams on Monday said Washington was preparing new sanctions to step up pressure on Caracas. But Maduro’s move suggests he does not expect major consequences from the United States, though the government has steered clear of actions – like arresting Guaido – that could provoke a harsher response.

“We once again handed imperialism a defeat,” socialist party Vice President Diosdado Cabello said on his talk show Monday night.

Parra, who was elected to congress in 2015, had been expelled from the First Justice opposition party in late 2019 due to corruption allegations, which he has denied.

Dozens of countries, including the United States, denounced Parra’s appointment as illegitimate, and said they continued to recognize Guaido as the parliament’s head and as Venezuela’s rightful president.

On Sunday, after soldiers prevented Guaido from entering parliament, he held a separate session elsewhere in which 100 lawmakers backed his bid despite the earlier swearing-in of Parra. The legislature has 167 seats.

Guaido had vowed to preside over Tuesday’s legislative session despite what he called Parra’s “parliamentary coup.” Parra has rejected that description, while saying he wants to end confrontations with Maduro’s government. “We came to save parliament from destruction,” he said on Twitter.

After security forces opened the gates to allow him to pass, Guaido stood in the leadership post and sang the Venezuelan national anthem with allies. Electricity swiftly went out in the chamber, and state television – which had broadcast footage of Parra’s session – cut away from the congress.

“In here, the people are in charge,” lawmakers chanted as Guaido entered.

Guaido was elected head of the congress in January 2019 and invoked Venezuela’s constitution to assume an interim presidency, denouncing Maduro as a usurper who had secured re-election in a 2018 vote widely considered fraudulent.

So far, Maduro has fended off Guaido’s challenge, retaining control of the armed forces and tightening the noose around opposition lawmakers. More than 30 of Guaido’s congressional allies are in hiding, in prison, or in exile.

Guaido has also been losing support as Venezuelans tired with Maduro lose patience with his floundering movement. It remains to be seen whether his defiant response to Maduro’s move could galvanize his supporters, who turned out by the hundreds of thousands to protest Maduro early last year.

Parra’s new policy agenda focuses on reducing conflict with the government. Maduro was quick to celebrate his swearing-in, highlighting a “rebellion” among opposition lawmakers.

Parra said Monday his priority was to set up a new electoral council to preside over free and fair elections.

His brief session included a debate over proposals to tackle widespread shortages of gasoline. The session began around 10 a.m. and ended in under an hour.

(Reuters) – A rally in chip stocks helped German and Italian shares strengthen on Tuesday while gains in other European bourses were curbed by nervousness amid tension between the United States and Iran.

Semiconductor stocks tracked their U.S. peers higher as Microchip Technology <MCHP.O> raised its third-quarter sales outlook. The technology index <.SX8P> rose 1.3%, the most among European sub-sectors. [.N]

A more than 4% gain for Infineon Technologies <IFXGn.DE> helped Germany’s DAX <.GDAXI> rise 0.8% while STMicroelectronics’s <STM.MI> 2.5% gain lifted Italian <.FTMIB> stocks by 0.6%.

The pan-regional STOXX 600 index <.STOXX> finished a volatile session 0.2% higher after falling in the past two sessions following the killing of a top Iranian commander in Baghdad last week by the United States.

The benchmark index is 0.4% below its record high hit on December 27.

“Relative to the potential political and humanitarian consequences of an escalating conflict between Iran and a U.S.-Saudi alliance, markets have reacted fairly calmly so far,” wrote Berenberg economist Holger Schmieding in a note.

Oil prices surrendered some of their recent gains, pressuring London’s energy-heavy FTSE 100 <.FTSE> index.

Auto <.SXAP> stocks also shone after British carmaker Rolls-Royce marked a 25% jump in 2019 sales, giving some comfort to a sector that has been plagued by slowing global demand.

Shares of Rolls-Royce owner BMW <BMWG.DE> rose 1.6%.

On the other hand, luxury British carmaker Aston Martin <AML.L> plunged about 16% after it warned its 2019 profits would almost halve due to weak European markets.

The stock was the biggest loser on the London’s mid-cap <.FTMC> index.

Spanish stocks <.IBEX> lagged as Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez secured parliamentary backing by a tight margin to form a coalition government, following two inconclusive national elections last year.

But without a solid majority in parliament, the coalition may struggle to pass legislation and will need to negotiate with other parties on a case by case basis.

“The Spanish economy could probably cope with a weak left-left coalition that fails to get much done. Spain may gradually cease to outperform the remainder of the Eurozone,” Schmieding added.

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Democratic presidential contender Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday proposed making it easier for struggling American families to wipe away their debts by reforming the country’s personal bankruptcy laws.

The issue is of particular importance to Warren, a former law professor at Harvard University who spent decades studying why individuals and families file for bankruptcy in the United States.

Warren’s plan calls for repealing much of a 2005 law that was backed by, among others, then-U.S. Senator Joe Biden, now one of Warren’s chief rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination. The legislation, which passed largely with Republican support and was favored by credit card companies, made it more difficult for individuals to clear debts through bankruptcy filings.

Warren and Biden have been sparring over the issue for two decades, starting when Biden still represented Delaware – whose corporation-friendly laws have made it a haven for many financial companies – and Warren was a nationally recognized bankruptcy law expert.

Warren, now a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, argued that her research showed most families go bankrupt not because of financial misbehavior but because of events out of their control: a lost job, a medical problem or a divorce.

But proponents of the bill at the time said it was needed to slow the pace of bankruptcies because too many people financially able to repay their debts were instead filing for bankruptcy.

In the spring, after Biden launched his campaign, Warren accused him of siding with credit card companies over families.

In response, the Biden campaign said the 2005 legislation was inevitable, given that Republicans held the White House and controlled Congress, and that Biden worked to add protections to the bill for working families and women, including making child support and alimony the top priority for payments rather than credit card bills and other debt.

Warren and Biden are two of the front-runners among the 14 Democrats vying to take on Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election.

When families file for bankruptcy, they can either do so under Chapter 7, which allows them to sell off assets and clear debts permanently, or Chapter 13, which allows them to keep their property but requires them to use a portion of their income for years to make debt payments.

Warren’s plan, published on the website Medium, would streamline bankruptcy law by creating a single process and offering families far more flexibility in deciding how to discharge their debts.

She would allow families in bankruptcy to set aside more money for basic needs, including rent and child care, and to avoid onerous legal fees.

The 2005 bill also made it difficult to discharge student debt via bankruptcy, Warren said. The senator, who has also called for using higher taxes on the wealthy to erase student debt for millions of people, said she would reform the law to treat student debt like any other consumer debt in bankruptcy court.

Warren said the legislation resulted in fewer bankruptcies and more insolvencies and caused hundreds of thousands of additional mortgage defaults and foreclosures in the wake of the 2008 recession.

“The banking industry spent more than $100 million to turn that bill into a law because they knew it would be worth much more than that to their bottom lines,” Warren wrote. “But it was terrible for families in need.”

VIENNA (Reuters) – Austrian conservative Sebastian Kurz returned to power on Tuesday as his coalition cabinet with the Greens was sworn in almost eight months after his alliance with the far right collapsed in the wake of a video sting.

The about-face was a political necessity for the 33-year-old, who emerged relatively unscathed and even gained voters after the scandal in which far right leader Heinz-Christian Strache was shown offering to fix government contracts at a dinner party in Ibiza.

With the far right in disarray after Strache’s resignation, Kurz has formed an awkward alliance with the left-wing Greens, who long railed against his hard line on immigration and “political Islam”. They have struck a coalition deal that twins many of those policies and tax cuts with environmental measures.

“After Ibiza … and the parliamentary election in autumn, the circle is now closing,” President Alexander Van der Bellen, a former Greens leader, said as he swore in the new cabinet, who did not give speeches. “The carefully rebuilt (public) trust must now be strengthened.”

Austria joins Sweden and Finland in having the Greens in government at a time of growing calls for urgent action on climate change.

In contrast to those fellow European Union member states, Austria’s Greens are not governing with the center-left, making this an interesting test case. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives could opt for a similar coalition after an election due by next year.

Whether the Austrian experiment can last five years until the next scheduled election is likely to depend on whether the Greens can show supporters they obtained enough concrete results from their alliance with an ideological adversary.

Kurz’s People’s Party (OVP) and the Greens have carved up ministries roughly in proportion to their scores in the Sept. 29 parliamentary election, which the OVP won with 37.5% of votes. The Greens came fourth on 13.9%. The OVP will control ministries including finance, interior and defense.

The Greens are in government for the first time.

Many Greens have, however, baulked at measures in the deal including extending a ban on headscarves in schools until the age of 14 and preventive custody for people deemed a threat to public order but who have yet to commit a crime. It also defers a tax overhaul to better price in carbon emissions until 2022.

Asked by ORF radio if that timeline was too slow given the wildfires in Australia, Kurz said: “I do not think it is a good idea to turn Austrian politics on its head because of bush fires in Australia.” He has said tax cuts are his priority this year.

FRANKFURT/PARIS (Reuters) – Volkswagen <VOWG_p.DE> on Tuesday said that Luca de Meo has stepped down from his current role as head of its Spanish Seat brand just as rival Renault <RENA.PA> intensifies efforts to find a new chief executive.

“Luca de Meo, Chief Executive of Seat S.A. has had his duties as chief executive of Seat revoked at his own request and by mutual agreement,” Volkswagen said in a statement on Tuesday.

De Meo is a contender for the top job at Renault, but a stringent non-compete clause in De Meo’s contract is proving to be a hurdle in discussions about a move to Paris, one source close to the matter told Reuters.

“There is no agreement yet on how long a potential cooling off period should be,” another source said, commenting on how long De Meo would have to delay his start at Renault, given his intimate knowledge of Volkswagen Group’s strategy.

It was therefore not immediately clear whether de Meo would leave Volkswagen, a multi-brand group which also owns the Lamborghini, Bugatti, Bentley, Skoda, VW, Audi, Porsche and Ducati brands.

“Luca de Meo leaves Seat, but remains at VW,” a third source close to the discussions said.

De Meo’s move comes as Renault tries to resolve management turmoil triggered by the arrest of former Renault-Nissan alliance boss Carlos Ghosn in Japan a year ago on financial misconduct charges which he denies.

Ghosn fled Japan last week to Lebanon and has said he will hold a news conference on Wednesday to give his side of the story following his arrest in late 2018.

Renault, currently led by interim chief Clotilde Delbos is drawing up a shortlist of candidates to replace Thierry Bollore, who was ousted in mid October.

“Luca de Meo is among those on the shortlist to head Renault, Clotilde Delbos is another one,” another source said on Tuesday.

De Meo, who was appointed president of Seat in 2015, could not be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Edward Taylor in Frankfurt, Gwenaelle Barzic and Gilles Guillaume in Paris; Editing by David Goodman and Jane Merriman)

TOKYO (Reuters) – Sony Corp said it would start testing self-driving cars as early as this year to beef up the company’s sensing and safety technologies, as the Japanese electronics and entertainment giant accelerates its automotive push.

Sony revealed the plan as it unveiled an electric concept car with 33 embedded sensors, including image sensors and solid state light detection and ranging (Lidar) sensors, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Monday.

The concept car, developed with the help of Bosch, Continental and other partners, also incorporates Sony’s in-car entertainment systems with spatial audio technology.

Sony is aiming to start test rides during the next financial year starting in April to check the performance of its auto- related technologies, a spokesman said. The company has no plans to produce its own cars, he added.

Sony dominates the market for smartphone image sensors, but has been trying to catch up with ON Semiconductor Corp in sensors for automotive applications.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that mobile has been the mega-trend of the last decade,” Sony Chief Executive Officer Kenichiro Yoshida said at a CES press conference. “I believe the next megatrend will be mobility.”

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The dollar gained, helped by better-than-expected data in the U.S. non-manufacturing sector, and oil prices retreated on Tuesday as investors awaited developments in the U.S.-Iranian stand-off in the Middle East.

Gold prices inched higher after earlier backing off an almost seven-year high on Monday, when risk-adverse investors drove demand, while stocks in Europe and on Wall Street were little changed.

A U.S. drone strike in Baghdad on Friday killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, widely seen as Iran’s second-most powerful figure. Tehran threatened retaliation.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.01%, while the pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.29%.

“Earnings and the economy have taken a bit of a back seat relative to the rising tensions in the Mideast and investors are keenly focused on what might happen there next,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

Even amid rising geopolitical tensions, cyclical stocks have outperformed defensive shares, an indication the U.S. economy remains strong and growth will reaccelerate later in the year despite the flare-up in the Middle East, he said.

“The ISM non-manufacturing number was a little bit above expectations. That would support the idea the consumer and cyclicals that benefit from the consumer are the leadership today even in a down market,” Arone said.

The Institute for Supply Management said its non-manufacturing activity index rose to 55.0 last month from 53.9 in November. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the services sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 108.84 points, or 0.38%, to 28,594.54 The S&P 500 lost 8.37 points, or 0.26%, to 3,237.91 and the Nasdaq Composite added 5.70 points, or 0.06%, to 9,077.16.

Emerging market stocks rose 0.29%.

The safe-haven Japanese yen fell from a three-month high versus the dollar and the Swiss franc pulled back from recent highs against the greenback, though concerns remained paramount about U.S.-Iranian relations.

The dollar index rose 0.4%, with the euro down 0.5% to $1.1137. The yen weakened 0.13% versus the greenback at 108.53 per dollar.

The dollar was up 0.39% at 0.9718 franc.

Oil prices fell more than 1%, surrendering some of the gains of recent days as investors reconsidered the likelihood of immediate supply disruptions in the Middle East.

Brent crude was down $1.21 at $67.70 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 83 cents to $62.44 a barrel.

Euro zone government bond yields edged up from three-week lows and yields on U.S. Treasuries were little changed.

Germany’s benchmark Bund yield was little changed at around -0.28%, having risen from more than three-week lows on Monday at -0.31%. But it remained below last week’s seven-month highs amid euphoria over the year-end stock rally.

Benchmark 10-year notes rose 1/32 in price to yield 1.8073%.

Spot gold edged up 0.31% at $1,570.7 an ounce.

(Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Dan Grebler)

The tech-heavy Nasdaq remained buoyant as chipmakers resumed their strong rally from 2019.

Micron Technology Inc <MU.O> jumped 6.7% after brokerage Cowen & Co upgraded the chipmaker to “outperform”, citing earlier-than-expected recovery in the memory market. Microchip Technology Inc <MCHP.O> rose 5.3% after raising the mid-point of its third-quarter sales forecast.

Energy stocks <.SPNY> were down 1% as oil prices surrendered gains made over the last few days, and healthcare stocks <.SPXHC> fell 0.3% as shares in Merck & Co Inc <MRK.N> were hit by mixed results in its late-stage trial of a cancer drug.

Equity markets have been trying to shake off concerns from escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran after the killing of a top Iranian military commander last week by the United States.

“The reason why we are modestly negative here is the tension in the Middle East and the noise coming out around it,” said Phil Blancato, chief executive officer of Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management in New York.

“I think the market is being very patient here, just waiting for news from one side or the other.”

Latest data showed new orders for U.S.-made goods fell in November, pulled down by steep declines in demand for machinery and transportation equipment, pointing to sustained weakness in manufacturing.

However, another reading on the non-manufacturing sector activity for November came in better than expected.

At 11:25 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> was down 23.62 points, or 0.08%, at 28,679.76, the S&P 500 <.SPX> was down 1.99 points, or 0.06%, at 3,244.29 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> was up 16.94 points, or 0.19%, at 9,088.40.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc <GS.N> rose 1.3% after the Wall Street bank said it had overhauled its main business units ahead of its quarterly results next week.

Shares in Apache Corp <APA.N> soared 25% after it and France’s Total SA <TOTF.PA> said they made a major oil discovery off the coast of Suriname at the closely watched Maka-Central 1 well.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.25-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.14-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 32 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 71 new highs and seven new lows.