Asian stocks faltered after the West promised more sanctions against Russia

Asian stock markets are mixed after western governments promised new sanctions against Russia

Shanghai and Hong Kong fell while Tokyo rose. Oil was little changed but stayed above $110 a barrel.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index rose 1.4% after the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to a 52-year low.

Western leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday promised more sanctions. President Joe Biden told Putin to ‘add pain’ But those responsible did not release any details about possible new penalties.

Putin threatened to pay European customers who depend on Russian gas supplies in rubles. That would increase demand for the Russian currency and boost an exchange rate that has collapsed under sanctions.

European leaders rejected that possibility on Thursday, potentially sparking a conflict over energy supplies.

Putin’s demand is a “cunning move” to thwart sanctions while “increasing uncertainty for the West,” Mizuho Bank’s Tan Boon Heng said in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.6% to 3,232.34, while Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 gained 0.1% to 28,136.57. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.8% to 21,544.18.

Seoul’s Kospi was down less than 0.1% to 2,732.20, while Sydney’s S&P ASX 200 was up 0.4% to 7,415.60.

India’s Sensex opened up 0.2% to 57,479.62. New Zealand, Singapore and Bangkok advanced while Jakarta declined.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose to 4,520.16. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1% to 34,707.94 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 1.9% to 14,191.84.

Technology and communications stocks drove gains.

Big tech companies have outsized assets that tend to sway the broader market both ways. Chipmaker Nvidia was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, up 9.8%. Facebook parent Meta rose 2.9%.

Healthcare stocks also gained. Insurer UnitedHealth Group was up 2% and Anthem was up 2.5%.

Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine caused investors to worry about the impact on oil, gas, wheat and other commodity prices. Russia is the second largest oil exporter and both Moscow and Ukraine are important wheat suppliers.

Markets were already jittery about plans by the Federal Reserve and other central banks to combat rising inflation by rolling back ultra-low interest rates and other stimuli that are driving stock prices higher.

Oil prices are up more than 50% in 2022 on inflation concerns and potential supply disruptions.

Benchmark US crude fell 8 cents to $112.26 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $2.59 to $112.34 on Thursday. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, was up 25 cents in London to $115.55 a barrel. In the previous session, it lost $2.57 to $119.03 a barrel.

The dollar fell to 121.49 yen from 122.26 yen on Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1029 from $1.0997.

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