By YURI KAGEYAMA – Japan Today
Asian shares mostly rose Friday after U.S. stocks recovered toward the end of a wild trading day, as governments slapped sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 surged 1.9% in afternoon trading to 26,450.84. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost some of its earlier gains to close 0.1% higher at 6,997.80. South Korea’s Kospi jumped 1.2% to 2,679.56. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged down 0.4% to 22,821.87, while the Shanghai Composite rose 0.7% to 3,452.84.
Japan announced additional sanctions on Russia, including freezing the assets of Russian groups, banks and individuals and suspending exports of semiconductors and other sensitive goods to military-linked organizations in Russia.
Earlier in the week, Tokyo suspended new issuances and distribution of Russian government bonds in Japan, to reduce financing opportunities for Russia. It also banned trade with the two Ukrainian separatist regions.
While most nations in Asia rallied to support Ukraine, China denounced sanctions against Russia and blamed the United States and its allies for provoking Moscow.
Despite uncertainty about the Ukraine and worries over inflation and the pandemic, the turnaround on Wall Street seemed to buoy Asian shares.
“The market pivot came after the announcement of retaliatory measures toward Russia overnight, with the U.S. implementing export controls to cut Russia off from semiconductors and other advanced technology, including software,” said Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG in Singapore.
Beyond its tragic human toll, the conflict looks set to send prices even higher at gasoline pumps and grocery stores around the world as prices for oil, wheat and corn soar. Russia and Ukraine are major producers of both energy and grains and other commodities.
Asian economies, already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, are particularly vulnerable to rising energy costs. Japan imports almost all its energy, although its imports from Russia are limited.
Oil prices on both sides of the Atlantic briefly jumped above $100 per barrel on Thursday to their highest levels since 2014. But they gave back some of those gains after Biden said the sanctions package is “specifically designed to allow energy payments to continue.” Biden also said he wanted to limit the economic pain for Americans.
On Friday, benchmark U.S. crude jumped $1.30 to $94.11 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the basis for international oil prices, added $1.58 to $97.00 a barrel.
Prices have surged more in Europe than in the U.S. because its economy is more closely tied to Russia and Ukraine. The spot price in Europe for natural gas jumped more than 50%.
Higher energy and food prices are amplifying worries about inflation, which in January was at its hottest level in the United States in a couple generations, and about what the Federal Reserve will do to rein it in.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rallied 1.5% to 4,288.70 after erasing an early 2.6% loss, while the Nasdaq staged an even bigger comeback, gaining 3.3% to 13,473.59.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which isn’t as influenced by big tech stocks, rose a more modest 0.3% to 33,223.83.
The U.S. Fed looks certain to raise rates beginning next month for the first time since 2018. It has sometimes delayed big policy decisions in times of geopolitical uncertainty, such as the Kosovo war and the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
But economists say they still expect the Fed to steadily raise rates at its upcoming meetings, striving to tamp down inflation without choking the economy into recession.
Huge swings also have rocked the bond market, where yields initially sank as money moved into investments that looked to offer safer returns than stocks. But yields recovered through the day, and the 10-year Treasury yield was at 1.96% Friday, close to Wednesday’s 1.97%.
In currency trading, the U.S. dollar inched down to 115.21 Japanese yen from 115.48 yen. The euro cost $1.1219, up from $1.1204.