European stocks set to open down after pressure builds on Russian financial system

European stock futures tumbled and oil prices rose after Russian President Vladimir Putin put his country’s nuclear forces on high alert and the west levied its toughest sanctions yet following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

In Asia-Pacific trading on Monday, futures tipped the Euro Stoxx 50 to drop 2.7 per cent, while the S&P 500 was expected to shed 1.7 per cent after closing up 2.2 per cent on Friday.

Putin’s decision on the country’s nuclear forces was announced after the US and western allies imposed sanctions on Russia’s central bank and ejected some of the country’s lenders from the Swift messaging system, which allows financial institutions to make global payments.

The ruble tumbled more than 28 per cent to a record low of almost 118 against the dollar in early trading, as the new round of sanctions heaped pressure on Russia’s financial system.

Concerns over the regional fallout from the war also pushed traders to dump European currencies for the safety of the dollar. The euro fell 0.9 per cent to € 1,117 while sterling shed 0.3 per cent to £ 1,337.

Oil prices jumped, with the international benchmark Brent crude up 4.4 per cent to $ 102.24 a barrel and West Texas Intermediate, the US marker, rising 4.9 per cent to $ 96.10.

Brent climbed above $ 100 last week for the first time since 2014 and the price has remained volatile despite hopes that ringfencing the Russian energy sector with western sanctions would help avoid throttling global supplies.

Meanwhile, the potential disruption to grain shipments out of Ukraine and Russia, which together account for roughly 30 per cent of global wheat exports, pushed futures prices higher.

Wheat futures trading in Chicago rose as much as 9.2 per cent to $ 9.20 a bushel, near Friday’s 13-year high. Soyabean futures rose 3 per cent and corn was up 4 per cent.

“Though we expect oil and food prices to moderate, the combination of higher commodity prices and financial market stress is a threat to growth,” said Nathan Sheets, global chief economist at Citi. “The same uncertainties that are roiling financial markets are likely to constrain aggregate demand directly.”

Moves in Asia equities markets were limited, with Japan’s Topix up 0.3 per cent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng down 0.2 per cent.

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