By Yuri Kageyama-https://japantoday.com
The price of oil jumped more than $12 a barrel and shares were sharply lower Monday as the conflict in Ukraine deepened amid mounting calls for harsher sanctions against Russia.
Brent crude oil surged more than 10%, while benchmark U.S. crude was up $10 at more than $125 a barrel.
Stock futures in the U.S. and Europe also dropped. The price of gold, which is viewed as an investor safe haven in times of crisis, jumped $26 an ounce to $1,992.90.
The latest market turmoil followed a warning from Russian President Vladimir Putin that Ukrainian statehood was imperiled as Russian forces battered strategic locations. A temporary cease-fire in two Ukrainian cities failed over the weekend – and both sides blamed each other.
Oil prices came under additional pressure after Libya’s national oil company said an armed group had shut down two crucial oil fields. The move caused the country’s daily oil output to drop by 330,000.
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House was exploring legislation to further isolate Russia from the global economy, including banning the import of its oil and energy products into the U.S.
By mid-afternoon in Tokyo, U.S. crude had jumped $10.01 to $125.69 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The all-time high was marked in July 2008, when the price per barrel of U.S. crude climbed to $145.29.
That pushed the average price for gasoline in the U.S. above $4 a gallon, a milestone already reached again. The price of regular gasoline rose almost 41 cents, breaking $4 per gallon (3.8 liters) on average across the U.S. on Sunday for the first time since 2008, according to the AAA motor club.
The all-time high for average gasoline prices was set July 17, 2008 at $4.10 per gallon.
Brent crude, the international pricing standard, hit $139.13 per barrel before falling back Monday. It was trading up $12.18 at $130.29 a barrel.
On Wall Street, U.S. futures fell, with the contract for the benchmark S&P 500 down 1.2% and that for the Dow industrials falling 1.0%. Stock futures in Europe also declined.
Higher fuel costs are devastating for Japan, which imports almost all its energy. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 dipped 3% in afternoon trading to 25,222.24.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 3.5% to 21,138.25, while South Korea’s Kospi slipped 2.0% to 2,658.42. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 1.0% to 7,038.60. while the Shanghai Composite lost 1.7% to 3,389.92.
“The Ukraine-Russia conflict will continue to dominate market sentiments and no signs of conflict resolution thus far may likely put a cap on risk sentiments into the new week,” said Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG in Singapore.
“It should be clear by now that economic sanctions will not deter any aggression from the Russians, but will serve more as a punitive measure at the expense of implication on global economic growth. Elevated oil prices may pose a threat to firms’ margins and consumer spending outlook,” Yeap said.
China reported Monday that its exports rose by double digits in January and February before Russia’s attack on Ukraine roiled the global economy.
Customs data show exports grew by 16.3% over a year earlier in a sign global demand was recovering before President Vladimir Putin’s Feb. 24 invasion. Imports advanced 15.5% despite a Chinese economic slowdown that the war threatens to worsen.
China’s No. 2 leader, Premier Li Keqiang, warned Saturday global conditions are “volatile, grave and uncertain” and achieving Beijing’s economic goals will require “arduous efforts.”
Markets worldwide have swung wildly recently on worries about how high prices for oil, wheat and other commodities produced in the region will go because of Russia’s invasion, inflaming the world’s already high inflation.
The list of companies exiting Russia has grown to include Mastercard, Visa and American Express, as well as Netflix.
The conflict in Ukraine also threatens the food supply in some regions, including Europe, Africa and Asia, which rely on the vast, fertile farmlands of the Black Sea region, known as the “breadbasket of the world.”
Wall Street finished last week with shares falling despite a much stronger report on U.S. jobs than economists expected. The S&P 500 fell 0.8% to 4,328.87, posting its third weekly loss in the last four. It is now down just under 10% from its record set early this year.
The Dow closed 0.5% lower at 33,614.80. The Nasdaq fell 1.7% to 13,313.44. The Russell 2000 index of small companies dropped 1.6% to 2,000.90.
In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged up to 114.89 Japanese yen from 114.86 yen. The euro cost $1.0880, down from $1.0926.