European stocks close slightly higher with Ukraine, monetary policy in focus

Global markets have been tracking negotiations over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine closely, and Thursday saw a host of high-level meetings between world leaders and international bodies.

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LONDON: European markets closed slightly higher on Friday, as investors continued to monitor the war in Ukraine and assess the outlook for global monetary policy.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed higher by just 0.12%, having reversed earlier losses. Oil and gas stocks climbed 1.2% while banks shed 0.4%.

In terms of individual share price movement, Sweden’s Trelleborg surged more than 23% to lead the European blue chip index after Yokohama Rubber announced that it would buy its tire business for $2.18 billion.

At the bottom of the index, German cooking appliance manufacturer Rational fell 11%.

Global markets have been tracking negotiations over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine closely, and Thursday saw a host of high-level meetings between world leaders and international bodies.

NATO committed extra troops along its eastern flank, the U.K. and U.S. rolled out more sanctions against Russian elites and officials, and the U.S. announced billions more in aid to Ukraine.

It comes as markets endured another choppy week, with a hawkish pivot from the U.S. Federal Reserve fueling bets that monetary policy will be tightened aggressively in a bid to rein in runaway inflation.

Stateside, the S&P 500 was steady Friday, on track for its second winning week in a row while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed.

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Russian shares endured a wild ride on Thursday as they returned to limited trading after a month on the sidelines following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, and subsequent punitive international sanctions.

The volatility continued on Friday, and the MOEX Russia Index pulled back sharply to erase most of the previous session’s gains.

On the data front, Germany’s Ifo Business Climate Index fell sharply in March as the war in Ukraine darkened sentiment in Europe’s largest economy.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 2.47% to close at 21,404.88, paring some losses after plunging nearly 3% earlier. The Shanghai composite was down 1.17% to close at 3,212.24, and the Shenzhen component fell 1.89% to 12,072.73. The CSI 300 dropped 1.8% to 4,174.57.

Shares of Hong Kong-listed Russian aluminum producer Rusal surged more than 10% in early trade before reversing to tumble 5.74%. The stock dropped earlier this week after the firm said Monday it was evaluating the impact of a ban announced Sunday by the Australian government on exports of alumina and aluminum ores to Russia.

Rusal shares in Moscow had shot up nearly 16% when markets resumed trading in Russia on Thursday after a month-long shutdown.

JD Logistics shares dived nearly 14%, dropping below its offer price. In a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange in the morning, the firm said it will raise 8.53 billion Hong Kong dollars ($1.09 billion) through a share sale. The subsidiary of e-commerce giant JD.com said the shares will be priced at 20.71 Hong Kong dollars a piece.

The Hang Seng tech index fell nearly 5%, with Alibaba losing 5.62%, Tencent falling 2.62%, JD down 4.72%, and Meituan plunging 8.16%. Delisting fears continued to be in focus with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission adding Chinese social media platform Weibo to a list of Chinese stocks facing the risk of being delisted from the U.S.

Japan stocks moved between positive and negative territory, but the Nikkei 225 closed 0.14% up to 28,149.84, and the Topix closed flat to 1,981.47. Japan reported inflation data, showing its core consumer price index hit a two-year high in March, according to Reuters.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 stayed in positive territory as it inched up 0.26% to 7,406.20, with some gains in miners. South Korean stocks struggled for direction, trading between gains and losses. The Kospi last sat above the flat line and settled at 2,729.98.

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