Stocks mixed, oil prices dip as West targets Russian gold
Stock markets were mixed while oil prices eased Thursday as investors weighed Western summits on Russia's war in Ukraine and the prospect of sharper interest rate hikes to control inflation.
NATO, G7 and European Union leaders were gathering in Brussels for a series of meetings, with Washington imposing new sanctions on Russian figures and allies seeking to block Moscow's gold transactions.
London's FTSE 100 index was flat in afternoon trading while eurozone stock markets were down 0.2 percent after a mixed session in Asia.
Wall Street opened higher, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.1 percent, S&P 500 gaining 0.4 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq rising by 0.4 percent.
Oil prices fell, with Brent North Sea crude, the main international benchmark, dipping under $120 per barrel.
The recent surge in oil prices on tight supply fears has fanned already sky-high inflation, causing central banks around the world to hike interest rates, in turn threatening economic recovery.
"The markets remain choppy but have showed some resilience as of late in the face of the festering uncertainty amid the ongoing war in Ukraine," said analysts at Schwab investment firm.
Investors are also taking into account "expectations that the Fed is set to get more aggressive with monetary policy tightening to try to tamp down elevated inflation pressures."
US Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell signalled Monday that the central bank could raise interest rates to a higher level than expected at its next meetings to tame inflation.
But the European Central Bank is sitting tight on rates for the time being, as it also reacts to weak growth in the eurozone.
Business activity in the single currency bloc slowed in March, according to a closely watched survey Thursday, as high prices and a gloomy outlook raised fears the Ukraine war could snuff out economic recovery.
The S&P purchase managers' index slipped one point this month to 54.5. A figure above 50 indicates growth.
The survey underscores the "immediate and material impact" of the war on the economy and "highlights the risk of the eurozone falling into decline in the second quarter", said S&P's chief business economist, Chris Williamson.
- Gold reserves -
Elsewhere Thursday, the Moscow Stock Exchange resumed trading of some shares, the second stage in a phased re-opening.
The Moscow exchange suspended trading hours after President Vladimir Putin sent thousands of troops into pro-Western Ukraine on February 24.
Trading resumed for only around 30 of the largest companies that make up the ruble-denominated MOEX Russia Index, which finished 4.4 percent higher after early gains of more than 10 percent.
Russia's economy and currency have been battered by Western sanctions, and allies are set to punish Moscow more.
The United States on Thursday announced a fresh wave of sanctions against Russian lawmakers, oligarchs and defence companies in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
And the G7 group of advanced economies and the European Union pledged to block transactions involving the Russian central bank's gold reserves to hamper any Moscow bid to circumvent Western sanctions, the White House said.
- Key figures around 1345 GMT -
New York - DOW: UP 0.1 percent at 34,405.29 points
London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,458.69
Frankfurt - DAX: DOWN 0.2 percent at 14,254.31
Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.2 percent at 6,566.15
EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,860.23
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.3 percent at 28,110.39 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.9 percent at 21,945.95 (close)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,250.26 (close)
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.9 percent at $116.66 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.2 percent at $113.51 per barrel
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0977 from $1.1013 late Wednesday
Pound/dollar: DOWN at 1.3179 from $1.3204
Euro/pound: DOWN at 83.31 pence from 83.36 pence
Dollar/yen: UP at 121.95 yen from 121.12 yen