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U.S. Futures Sink, Oil Up as West Isolates Russia: Markets Wrap

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(Bloomberg) — The euro slid and the yen rose Monday amid heightened market uncertainty after Western nations over the weekend unveiled harsher sanctions on Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, including against its central bank.

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The euro shed about 1% against the dollar on worries about risks for Europe’s economy, while the yen — a traditional haven in times of stress — advanced some 0.2%. Commodity-linked currencies and the pound declined. Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, dropped below $38,000.

Equity futures for Japan, Australia and Hong Kong climbed earlier, reflecting a Wall Street rebound Friday, but the fresh penalties since then have hurt sentiment. Investors are anxiously awaiting the start of trading in equities, bonds, gold and commodities such as oil, with Brent still near $100 a barrel.

The stricter penalties further separate commodity-rich Russia from global finance by seeking to prevent its central bank from using foreign reserves to undermine sanctions. They also exclude some Russian lenders from the SWIFT messaging system that underpins trillions of dollars worth of transactions.

The steps against the central bank raise doubts about its ability to backstop Russia’s financial system and the ruble. The SWIFT exclusion may leave holes in international banking that require monetary authorities to supply the market with dollars, according to Credit Suisse Group AG strategist Zoltan Pozsar.

The escalating Ukraine conflict and increased Western sanctions are sending tremors through the world economy and casting a pall over markets. The hostilities threaten to stoke inflation by imperiling flows of key resources such as wheat, energy and metals, exacerbating the elevated pandemic-era price pressures that were already dogging the global recovery.

The U.S. Treasury yield curve has flattened, signaling investors foresee slower growth and ongoing inflation. A key question is how all this may affect the Federal Reserve’s plan for a series of interest-rate hikes starting March. Receding liquidity stirred major market swings before the Ukraine crisis.

“Volatility will persist in the near term as saber-rattling, aftershocks, and spillover incidents will occur this year,” Matt Gertken, chief geopolitical strategist at BCA Research Inc., wrote in a note.

Ruble Fears

Ukrainian and Russian officials are due to meet at the Belarus border, hours after President Vladimir Putin put Russia’s nuclear forces on higher alert. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy voiced skepticism about the talks.

In Russia, citizens were lining up at cash machines around the country to withdraw foreign currency, fearful of a ruble collapse. Russian bonds were cut to below investment grade by S&P Global Ratings on Friday.

Meanwhile, BP Plc will exit its shareholding in Russia’s largest oil company Rosneft PJSC, potentially taking a financial hit of up to $25 billion. Norway has started the process of excising Russian assets from its $1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund. The European Union is closing its airspace to Russian planes.

Traders are awaiting Congressional testimony from Fed Chair Jerome Powell this week, and commentary from other Fed officials, about the policy outlook.

What to watch this week:

President Joe Biden State of the Union address, Tuesday

Reserve Bank of Australia policy decision, Tuesday

Fed Chair Jerome Powell testifies to Congress on monetary policy, Wednesday and Thursday

OPEC+ meeting, Wednesday

Eurozone CPI, Wednesday

Bank of Canada rate decision, Wednesday

ECB publishes the account of its February meeting, Thursday

U.S. unemployment, nonfarm payrolls, Friday

Some of the main moves in markets:

Stocks

The S&P 500 rose 2.2% on Friday

The Nasdaq 100 rose 1.5% on Friday

Currencies

The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.5% Friday

The euro was at $1.1157, down 1%

The Japanese yen was at 115.37 per dollar, up 0.2%

Australia’s dollar fell 0.7% to 71.79 U.S. cents

The offshore yuan was at 6.3100 per dollar

Bonds

The yield on 10-year Treasuries was at 1.96% Friday

Commodities

West Texas Intermediate crude fell 1.3% to $91.59 a barrel Friday

Gold fell 0.8% to $1,889.34 an ounce Friday

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