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Asian markets fall and oil extends rally as Ukraine war rages

HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets fell further yesterday, oil prices rallied again and nickel surged to above USD100,000 as investors try to assess the impact of the Ukraine war on the world economy.

As Russia’s invasion of its neighbour continues, commodity prices have been sent to record or multi-year highs, forcing observers to re-evaluate their outlook for the global recovery with some now warning of a period of soaring inflation and low growth or recession.

Monday’s session saw a sea of red across trading floors after the United States (US) said it was considering banning the import of crude from Russia, the world’s number three producer, sending the price of Brent to almost USD140 for the first time since 2008.

While the black gold eased back slightly from that peak, it remains elevated and continued to rise again yesterday.

Europe was not so keen on the US idea, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz saying Russian oil and gas are of “essential importance” to the continent’s economy. Roughly 40 per cent of European Union (EU) gas imports and one quarter of its oil come from Russia.

Meanwhile, Moscow warned that in retaliation for strict sanctions imposed on it for the invasion, it could cut off natural gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, adding further upward pressure to crude as investors bet on a search for other sources of energy.

A pedestrian walks past an electronic share price board in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP

European gas prices hit records on Monday, while other commodities sourced from Ukraine and Russia also rallied, with wheat at an all-time high and nickel breaking USD100,000 a tonne for the first time before easing back.

The crisis comes just as uncertainty was rising owing to surging prices caused by a spike in demand for oil, tight supplies and pandemic-induced supply chain snarls, among other things.

Meanwhile, central banks are starting to wind back the ultra-loose monetary policies put in place at the start of the pandemic as they try to get a grip on runaway prices.

And while analysts have lowered their expectations for how much and how quickly officials will tighten in light of the war, they still see a tougher investing environment down the line.

“It’s all about slowing growth and rising inflation,” Alifia Doriwala of Rock Creek told Bloomberg Television. “With the sanctions on Russia intensifying, it’s hitting all sectors. Then you are going to have some central bank action amidst much uncertain economic growth.”

After a rout on US markets, Asia was again well into negative territory.

Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul and Wellington lost more than one per cent, while Shanghai and Bangkok were off more than two per cent. Manila sank more than four per cent, while Sydney, Jakarta and Mumbai were also in the red.


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