Global stocks mixed after Fed chair backs smaller rate hike

Global stock markets were mixed Thursday and oil prices jumped another $5 per barrel after the head of the Federal Reserve said he supports a smaller rise in interest rates than some expected.

London and Tokyo advanced while Paris and Frankfurt slipped as Russian forces whose attack on Ukraine has roiled financial markets bombarded the country’s second-largest city and besieged two ports.

Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Ratings cut Russia’s credit rating Thursday, saying the invasion and Western sanctions have hurt Moscow’s ability to repay debts and raised risks for the economy and stability.

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London lost 0.1% to 7,420.78 and Frankfurt’s DAX shed 0.7% to 13,900.03. The CAC in Paris slipped 0.2% to 6,482.94.

On Wall Street, the future for the S&P; 500 was 0.3% lower and the contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.2%.

In Asian trading, the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose 0.7% to 26,577.27 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.6% to 22,467.34. The Shanghai Composite Index lost less than 0.1% to 3,481.11.

The Kospi in Seoul added 1.6% to 2,747.08 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX; 200 was 0.5% higher at 7,151.40.

India’s Sensex shed 0.3% to 55,311.33. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets also advanced.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P; 500 index rose Wednesday after Chair Jerome Powell said the Fed is set to raise its key interest rate. He said he supports a traditional hike of 0.25 percentage points instead of the bigger rise recommended by some policymakers.

Powell said the impact on the U.S. economy of Russia’s attack is “highly uncertain.”

“Markets have reacted positively to the remarks, which is a debatable interpretation of Powell’s nuanced comments,” ING economists said in a report. “Volatility is the key here, and uncertainty. This isn’t going to go away any time soon.”

Share prices have swung widely as investors try to figure out how the Russian attack will affect supplies of oil, wheat and other commodities and the global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Traders already were uneasy about plans by the Fed and other central banks to fight inflation by withdrawing ultra-low interest rates that boosted stock markets.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude rose another $5.10 to $115.70 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, added $5.62 to $118.55 per barrel in London.

Both gains were smaller than Wednesday’s surge of more than $7 per barrel but still unusually wide margins for a daily change.

Leaders of OPEC and other major oil exporters decided Wednesday to stick to plans to gradually increase production. The coalition, made up of OPEC members led by Saudi Arabia and non-cartel members led by Russia, chose to increase production by 400,000 barrels per day in April.

The United States and other major oil consumers in the International Energy Agency agreed this week to release 60 million barrels from strategic reserves to boost supplies. But that has had little impact on market prices.

In currency markets, Russia’s ruble lost another 13% against the U.S. dollar and worth less than 1 cent. It has fallen more than 35% after Western governments imposed sanctions that cut off much of Russia’s access to the global financial system.

The dollar gained to 115.77 yen from Wednesday’s 115.58 yen. The euro declined to $1.1095 from $1.1126.

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