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World shares mixed as investors eye Ukraine, inflation

BANGKOK (AP) – World shares were mixed yesterday as investors watched for developments in Ukraine after Russia rescinded earlier pledges to pull tens of thousands of its troops away from Ukraine’s northern border.

United States (US) markets will be closed for a holiday but futures were higher. Shares rose in early European trading but fell in most Asian markets.

The White House said President Joe Biden had agreed “in principle” to meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin if he refrains from launching an assault that US officials said appears increasingly likely.

Russia’s decision extended military exercises that brought an estimated 30,000 Russian forces to Belarus, Ukraine’s northern neighbour. They had been due to end on Sunday.

The troops are among some 150,000 deployed along Ukraine’s borders, along with tanks, warplanes, artillery and other war materiel.

People walk past a bank’s electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange. PHOTO: AP

The concern that Russian troops could descend on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, a city of about three million people less than a three-hour drive away, has added to uncertainties for investors already jittery over central bank strategies to combat inflation.

Russia is a major energy producer and a military conflict also could disrupt energy supplies and make for extremely volatile energy prices.

Germany’s DAX gained 0.5 per cent to 15,111.84 and the CAC 40 in Paris edged 0.2 per cent higher. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.3 per cent to 7,538.08. The future for the S&P 500 climbed 0.3 per cent while that for the Dow industrials added 0.4 per cent.

Markets are on “tenterhooks”, Mizuho Bank said in a commentary. But it added, “relief rallies appear to be emerging; drawing comfort from Presidents Biden and Putin having ‘accepted the principle’ of a summit; conditional upon Russia not invading Ukraine.”

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index lost 0.8 per cent to 26,910.87, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong shed 0.7 per cent to 24,170.07.

In Seoul, the Kospi gave up less than one point to 2,743.80. The Shanghai Composite index was unchanged at 3,490.61. India’s Sensex lost 0.4 per cent and Thailand’s benchmark was 0.7 per cent lower.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2 per cent to 7,233.60 as the country re-opened its borders to more international travel after nearly two years of being mostly sequestered due to the pandemic.

Vaccinated travellers were greeted at Sydney’s airport by jubilant well-wishers waving toy koalas and favourite Australian foods including Tim Tams chocolate cookies and jars of Vegemite spread.

Outbreaks of coronavirus fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant are also a worry.

A preliminary reading on factory data for Japan yesterday showed a sharp drop in the manufacturing purchasing manager’s index, to 52.9 from 55.4 on a 0-100 scale where readings above 50 indicate expansion.

But analysts said they expect activity to rebound as the latest wave of infections subsides.

In Australia, shares in AGL, the country’s biggest electricity generator, jumped 10 per cent after it said it had rejected an AUD8 billion (USD5.8 billion) takeover bid from tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Canadian investment firm Brookfield.


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