AP

Asian stocks plunge after Putin announces action in Ukraine

Feb 23, 2022, 9:41 PM

Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquart...

Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower Thursday as anxiety about a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine rose. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets plunged and oil prices surged Thursday after President Vladimir Putin announced Russian military action in Ukraine.

Market benchmarks in Tokyo and Seoul fell 2% and Hong Kong and Sydney lost more than 3%.

Oil prices jumped nearly $3 per barrel on unease about possible disruption of Russian supplies.

Putin said the military operation was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine, a claim Washington had predicted he would make to justify an invasion. Putin accused the United States and its allies of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and offer Moscow security guarantees. President Joe Biden denounced the attack as “unprovoked and unjustified.”

As Putin spoke, explosions were heard in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other areas of Ukraine.

Earlier, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index fell 1.8% to an eight-month low Wednesday after the Kremlin said rebels in eastern Ukraine asked for military assistance. Moscow had sent soldiers to some rebel-held areas after recognizing them as independent.

“Geopolitical risks remain at the forefront, weighing on risk assets,” said Yeap Jun Rong of IG in a report.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 2% to 25,922.46 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 2.8% to 22,986.99. The Shanghai Composite Index was off 0.9% at 3,458.12.

Asian economies face lower risks than Europe does from a possible Russian attack and Western sanctions, forecasters say. But they say economies that need imported oil might be hit by higher prices if supplies from Russia, the third-largest producer, are disrupted.

The Kospi in Seoul lost 2.6% to 2,649.29 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 fell 3.1% to 6,983.40..

New Zealand lost 2.8% and Southeast Asian markets also fell.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell to 4,225.50. That put it 11.9% below its Jan. 3 record, solidly in a correction, or a decline of more than 10% from its latest peak.

More than 85% of stocks in the S&P 500 fell. Tech companies weighing down the index most.

The Nasdaq, dominated by technology stocks, lost 2.6% to 13,037.49, led by steep losses in Apple and Microsoft. That put the index 18.8% below its November 2021 high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4% to 33,131.76.

Investors already were uneasy about the possible impact of the Federal Reserve’s plans to try to cool inflation by withdrawing ultra-low interest rates and other stimulus that boosted share prices.

Since the start of the year, Facebook parent Meta is down 41.4%, Tesla is off 36.3% and Microsoft is down 16.3%, while Apple and Google’s parent Alphabet are both down 12.9%.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude jumped $3.00 to $95.10 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 25 cents to $92.10 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, advanced $2.99 to $97.04 per barrel in London. It lost 20 cents to $94.05 the previous session.

The dollar weakened to 114.56 yen from Wednesday’s 114.98 yen. The euro fell to $1.1211 from $1.1306.

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Asian stocks plunge after Putin announces action in Ukraine