US STOCKS-Futures knocked lower by escalating Middle East tensions

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* Futures down: Dow 0.52%, S&P 0.48%, Nasdaq 0.59%

Jan 6 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures slid on Monday as escalating tensions between the United States and Iran prompted investors to seek refuge in safer assets such as gold and government bonds.

After ending 2019 on a strong note, Wall Street’s main indexes have been knocked off record levels after the killing of a top Iranian general by the United States last week raised the threat of a new Middle East conflagration.

Tehran has threatened to avenge the killing of the military commander, Qassem Soleimani, while President Donald Trump has warned that the United States would strike back, “perhaps in a disproportionate manner”, if Iran attacked any American person or target.

Oil majors Chevron and Exxon Mobil rose about 0.6% in premarket trading as Brent crude futures topped $70 per barrel after Trump also threatened to impose sanctions on Iraq if U.S. troops were forced to withdraw from the country.

Iraq’s parliament earlier called on U.S. and other foreign troops to leave the country.

Shares of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, rose 1.9%, while peers Northrop Grumman and Raytheon gained over 1.5%.

At 07:29 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 148 points, or 0.52%. S&P 500 e-minis were down 15.5 points, or 0.48% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 52 points, or 0.59%.

The latest geopolitical concerns have added to fears of anemic earnings growth and less support from the Federal Reserve derailing the longest bull run in U.S. equities.

Apple Inc shares fell about 1% after brokerage Needham cut its rating to “buy” from “strong buy”, saying the stock outperformed significantly in 2019.

Shares of Boeing Co dropped 1.1%. A Wall Street Journal report said the planemaker was considering plans to raise more debt to bolster its finances after the grounding of its 737 MAX jet.

New York-listed shares of Chinese electric carmaker Nio Inc jumped 11.2% after reporting higher deliveries in December, compared with the previous month. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)