Asian shares slide as Russia shells Ukraine nuclear plant



Shares were lower Friday in Asia after another bumpy day on Wall Street, as investors remain concerned about the broader impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Shares fell more than 2% in Tokyo and Hong Kong and declined in most other Asian markets. US futures were lower. The S&P 500 fell 0.5% Thursday and the Nasdaq fell 1.6% as technology companies led the way lower.

Oil prices eased back from their recent highs and European markets also closed lower.

Russian troops were shelling Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, in Ukraine, raising worries over radiation risks.

A spokesman for the plant in Enerhodar, Ukraine, said in a video posted on Telegram that there was a “real threat of nuclear danger.” Andriy Tuz said shells were falling directly on the plant and had set fire to a reactor that was not operating but had nuclear fuel inside.

Elsewhere, Russian forces gained ground in their bid to cut off the country from the sea, as Ukrainian leaders called on citizens to rise up and wage guerrilla war against the invaders.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index fell 2.3% to 25,962.27 while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 2.7% to 21,850.24. In Seoul, the Kospi declined 1.2% to 2,713.89. The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.9% to 3,449.40.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.8% to 7,097.40.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 fell 23.05 points to 4,363.49. The Dow slid 0.3% to 33,794.66. The Nasdaq dropped 214.07 points to 13,537.94.

Smaller company stocks also lost ground. The Russell 2000 index fell 26.46 points, or 1.3%, to 2,032.41.

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The pullback left the indexes on pace for weekly losses, as meanwhile bond yields were mostly steady. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 1.85% from 1.86% late Wednesday.

Stocks rallied mid-week after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said he favored a modest interest rate increase at a policy meeting later this month. That reassured investors worried he might back more aggressive moves to fight inflation.

But Powell warned Thursday that the fighting in Ukraine is likely to further magnify the high inflation troubling world economies. He said he is committed to doing whatever is necessary to slow inflation, underscoring the high-risk challenge in raising interest rates enough to cool price pressures without triggering another recession.

Russia is a key oil producer and prices have been rising as global supplies are threatened by the conflict, raising concerns that persistent inflation could become even hotter.

Powell said inflation is thought to rise about 0.2 percentage point for each $10 increase in the price of a barrel of oil. Oil prices have surged by $40 a barrel since early December to about $110, suggesting price pressures will be higher than they otherwise would have been in coming months.

Early Friday, US benchmark crude was $2.15 to $109.82 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost $2.93 to $107.67 per barrel on Thursday.

Brent crude, the international price standard, added $1.77 to $112.23.

Trading on the Moscow exchange remained closed Thursday. Russia’s ruble lost another 15% against the US dollar and is worth less than 1 cent. It has plunged since Western governments imposed sanctions that cut off much of Russia’s access to the global financial system.

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The exposure and overlap that US markets have to Russia is relatively low. The real risk is the exposure that European banks have to Russia, said Liz Young, chief investment strategist at SoFi.

“If European banks start to feel the contagion of that, then it’s about what’s our exposure to Europe, which surprisingly is still reasonably low,” she said. “That doesn’t mean there’s no sentiment risk. Nobody likes to hear about financial markets freezing up.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is dominating as investors try to assess its global impact.

“For a world that was already grappling with worryingly high (cost-push) inflation before Ukraine’s invasion, the surge in commodity prices from the geo-political spill-over is not merely an inconvenience, but rather a binding economic threat,” Mizuho Bank said in a commentary.

Investors will get an update on the US jobs market on Friday when the Labor Department releases its report for February.

In currency trading, the US dollar bought 115.37 Japanese yen, down from 115.47 on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.1029 from $1.1066.

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AP Business Writers Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga contributed.


www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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