Asian shares slip, oil surges again as Russia sanctions bite


Asian stocks came under renewed pressure on Wednesday and oil prices jumped after rising worries about the impact of aggressive sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine sank shares in Europe and on Wall Street.

As global sanctions against Moscow tighten, the United States is poised to ban Russian flights using American airspace, following similar moves by the European Union and Canada.

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to announce the ban during his State of the Union speech beginning at 0200 GMT on Tuesday, in which he will also accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of having misjudged the West with the invasion of Ukraine.

Early in the Asian trading day, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.19% with China’s blue-chip CSI300 index 0.89% lower.

Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.5%

In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 index was up 0.2% as rising commodity prices lifted miners’ shares.

“The Russia-Ukraine conflict will probably continue to dominate markets for the foreseeable future. The announcement yesterday that Russia will not pay coupons to foreign holders on its government debt should push investors further into safe-havens,” ING analysts said in a note.

“Support for starting the EU membership process for Ukraine shows the unity of support for Ukraine from Western Europe but is unlikely to help calm tensions.”

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite indexes closed about 1.6% lower, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 1.8%.

Global sanctions against Russia have prompted a string of major companies to announce suspensions to or exits from their businesses in the country.

Exxon Mobil said on Tuesday that it will exit Russia operations, including oil production fields, following similar decisions by British oil giants BP PLC and Shell, and Norway’s Equinor ASA.

Exxon’s announcement comes as the price of oil continues to surge above $ 100 per barrel. On Wednesday morning, global benchmark Brent crude jumped 2.6% to $ 107.69 per barrel, and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude rose 3% o $ 106.50.

“We’re starting to see what impact these sanctions could have on Russian oil exports and the challenges they pose and that’s driving the price higher,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

The rise came despite a global agreement to release 60 million barrels of crude reserves to try to rein in price increases.

“We saw an underwhelmed reaction when this happened in November as well and that was before Russia invaded Ukraine,” Erlam said.

In the currency market, the dollar was last quoted up 2.83% against the rouble at 108.01 after touching a record high of 117 a day earlier.

The dollar was also stronger against the yen, up 0.1% at 115.01, while the euro firmed to $ 1.1133. Against a basket of currencies of other major trading partners, the dollar was up at 97.339.

The greenback’s rise came as U.S. Treasury yield rebounded after dropping to eight-week lows on Tuesday. A shifting global growth outlook as a result of the worsening conflict has seen investors trim bets that the Federal Reserve will aggressively hike interest rates in coming months.

The benchmark U.S. 10-year yield rose to 1.7548% from 1.711% late on Tuesday and the policy-sensitive 2-year yield jumped to 1.3785$ from 1.305%

Fed funds futures markets now price only a 5% chance of a 50 basis point hike at the Fed’s March meeting, though a smaller 25 basis point hike is seen as a virtual certainty.

Gold, which touched an 18-month high last week and had surged nearly 2% on Tuesday over the worsening Ukraine crisis, gave back 0.5% to 1,933.96.

Bitcoin, which had soared nearly 15.5% Tuesday on strengthening conflict currency credentials, fell 1.2% to $ 43,911.84.