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Asian, European markets rise as ceasefire talks begin

HONG KONG (AFP) – Equities mostly rose yesterday in Asia and Europe on optimism over talks between Ukraine and Russia aimed at ending their month-long war, while there was further support from another drop in oil prices.

While the conflict in eastern Europe continues to rage, traders have grown increasingly confident about shifting back into stocks as diplomats work to find a peaceful solution.

Analysts also said markets have been helped by the lack of any alternative investment for
quality returns.

Focus is now on Istanbul, where officials from the warring parties began their first face-to-face talks since March 10, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging them to “put an end to this tragedy”.

“The whole world is waiting for good news from you,” he added.

Hopes that a way out could be found were boosted last week when senior Russian general Sergei Rudskoi appeared to scale back Moscow’s campaign by saying the first phase of the war was over and the “main goal” was now on controlling Donbas.

All three main indexes on Wall Street posted healthy gains, and Asia followed suit.

A trader works on the floor at New York Stock Exchange. PHOTO: AP

Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Seoul, Mumbai, Bangkok and Wellington rose, though Shanghai, Singapore, Manila and Jakarta dipped. London, Paris and Frankfurt were sharply higher in the morning, while United States (US) futures were also on the front foot.

“A lot of negative news is already reflected in market pricing and investor positioning, and we still see upside in US equities for the rest of 2022,” Solita Marcelli at UBS Global Wealth Management said.

And market strategist Louis Navellier added that “growth forecasts of both overall earnings and gross domestic product (GDP) remain positive for the next several quarters on the strength of the post-pandemic re-opening”.

Still, uncertainty remains rife on trading floors as soaring inflation ramps up expectations that the Federal Reserve will act increasingly more aggressive in tightening monetary policy.

That has sent Treasury yields rocketing, fuelling fears of a sharp economic slowdown.

There has been some respite for inflation expectations thanks to a sharp drop in oil prices, which has come on the back of a COVID lockdown in Shanghai, China’s biggest city and financial hub of 25 million people.

The news sparked fears of a sharp drop-off in demand in the world’s number two economy, sending both main contracts down about seven per cent on Monday. They edged up slightly yesterday.

OANDA’s Jeffrey Halley said if there is a breakthrough in Ukraine talks “watch out for sub-USD100 Brent, a mad rush into the euro and European equities, and a slump in the US dollar and gold.

“Asian equities should catch a nice tailwind as well.”

On currency markets, the yen rose against the dollar but remains under pressure and around six-year lows after the Bank of Japan (BoJ) said it will buy 10-year government bonds to keep yields from running above its target.

The move reinforced the divergence between the BoJ and Fed as US officials battle to rein
in inflation.