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Oil surges above $100 a barrel, stocks slide on Ukraine conflict


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective mask, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, walks past an electronic board displaying Russian Trading System (RTS) Index, Japan’s Nikkei index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average outside a brokerage in T

By Herbert Lash and Marc Jones

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Oil shot back above $100 a barrel and U.S. and German government debt rallied on Tuesday as massive uncertainty sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unnerved investors, leading stocks in Europe and on Wall Street to slide further.

Russia’s equity markets remained suspended and some bond trading platforms were no longer showing prices, but dealing in the world’s major financial centers was orderly, albeit jittery.

The main stock indices in Germany, France and Italy closed down more than 3%, the pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 1.98% and U.S. and European banks were hit hard for a second day.

The Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq equity indexes were down more than 1% each.

Yields on 10-year German bunds slid back into negative territory for the first time since late January and U.S. Treasuries dropped to five-week lows as prices, which move inversely to a bond’s yield, rallied on safe-haven buying.

The sixth day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the disruption caused by sanctions have raised questions about the toll of the crisis on global growth and inflation.

“If Russia controls more of Ukraine’s food and energy production capacity and those types of things, they may end up being more expensive for everyone around the world,” said Tom Simons, a money market economist at Jefferies in New York. “The economic consequences of it may be more long-lasting.”

The disruption to Russian trade may spur an increase in the pace of inflation in the short-term for many European jurisdictions, Citi researchers said in a note.

Russia said it was placing temporary curbs on foreigners seeking to exit Russian assets, braking an accelerating investor exodus driven by crippling Western sanctions.

Russian assets went into freefall with London-listed iShares MSCI Russia ETF plunging 33% to a fresh record low and shares of Sberbank, Russia’s biggest lender, falling to 21 cents on the dollar from just under $9 before the invasion. The ruble fell more than 4%.

Russia warned Kyiv residents to flee their homes and rained rockets down on Kharkiv, as Russian commanders who have failed to achieve a quick victory shifted their tactics to intensify the bombardment of Ukrainian cities.

Oil prices surged more than 10% at one point as talks about a coordinated global release of crude inventories failed to calm fears about supply disruptions due to the war in Ukraine.

News of the release – less than one day of worldwide oil consumption – underscored the market’s fear that supply will be inadequate to cover growing disruptions to the crude market.

U.S. crude futures surged 9.43% to $104.75 a barrel and Brent was at $105.98, up 8.18% on the day, while European natural gas prices jumped 20%.

Both oil and gas prices are now up nearly 60% since fears of an invasion of Ukraine began to escalate in November.

The likelihood of a slowing global economy has led to concerns that the Federal Reserve and other central banks will not be as aggressive in hiking interest rates in coming months.

The yield on 10-year Treasury notes declined 11.3 basis points to 1.726% while Germany’s equivalent Bund fell 2.2 basis points to -0.091%.

February PMI data had shown that momentum in euro zone manufacturing growth had already waned slightly last month, although it was still relatively strong and firms said supply chain constraints had eased.

“It seems that the markets have started to reassess the monetary policy outlook,” said Jan von Gerich, chief strategist at Nordea.

The euro hit its lowest against the U.S. dollar since June 2020. The U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, jumped and was last up 0.65%.

(Additional Reporting by Sujata Rao in London; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bernadette Baum)

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