European stocks were higher on Friday morning, tracking a fragile global rebound as market participants assessed the impact of Western sanctions against Russia after the Kremlin launched an invasion of Ukraine.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 was up around 0.7% during morning trade in London, with major bourses and almost all sectors in positive territory.
Mining stocks led the gains, trading up around 1.9%, while chemicals stocks bucked the trend, down roughly 0.6%.
Russia on Thursday launched an attack on Ukraine via land, air and sea, prompting fears of a devastating humanitarian crisis and sending shockwaves through financial markets.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the capital of Kyiv was hit with “horrific” Russian rocket strikes early Friday morning, with several reports of explosions being heard around the city. The crisis in Ukraine is changing rapidly and specific reports from the country are difficult to confirm.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a statement that at least 137 people have been killed and 316 have been injured during the invasion. Zelenskyy, who has pledged to remain in Kyiv, later warned of “enemy sabotage groups” entering the capital.
U.S. and Western allies have condemned Russia’s assault, coordinating a squeeze on Moscow by implementing a sanctions package designed to limit international trade with Russia and target banks and oligarchs.
Ukraine’s Kuleba angrily called on even tougher international measures to deter Russia, specifically blocking Moscow from SWIFT, a payments system through which it receives foreign currency.
Global stocks on Thursday sold off sharply on news of the attack, although U.S. stocks embarked on a stunning recovery to end the session in positive territory.
In Asia-Pacific, shares mostly rose on Friday, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 up almost 2%. Elsewhere, in South Korea, the Kospi rose 1% and the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia edged up 0.1%.
The Shanghai composite in mainland China added 0.54%, and the Shenzhen component jumped 1.08%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 0.14%.
Back in Europe, education company Pearson surged toward the top of the European benchmark. The London-listed company launched a £350 million ($470 million) share buyback after posting 2021 results in line with recently upgraded forecasts. Shares of Pearson rose over 7% on the news.
Meanwhile, reinsurance firm Swiss Re slumped to the bottom of the index. Shares of the company slipped 6.8% after a smaller-than-expected 2021 profit.
The mood in markets appeared cautious on Friday morning, with investors monitoring the potential for further sanctions against Moscow. The prospect of a decision to target Swift or a coordinated move to hit Russia’s oil and gas exports could have broader implications for the global economy.
To be sure, Russia is the world’s second-largest producer of natural gas and one of the world’s largest oil-producing nations.
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