Asia stocks mixed after Wall St falls, US bans Russian oil

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks rebounded Wednesday after Wall Street declined and Chinese inflation edged higher.

Already high oil prices rose further, adding more than $2 per barrel following President Joe Biden’s ban on imports of Russian crude.

Stock benchmarks in Tokyo and Sydney rose while Shanghai and Hong Kong declined. South Korean markets were closed for a presidential election.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index sank 0.7% amid enduring unease over the impact of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine.

Asian markets “seem to be taking a breather” from their sell-off, but Wall Street’s retreat “may drive some wait-and-see as geopolitical risks show no signs of easing,” Yeap Jun Rong of IG said in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.5% to 3,278.54 after China’s government reported consumer prices rose 0.6% in February from the previous month and producer prices gained 0.5%.

The increase was smaller than in recent months but inflation is likely to surge again given rising global prices for energy and other manufacturing inputs, analysts said.

“Inflation will pick up further in the near-term,” Julian Evans-Pritchard of Capital Economics said in a report. The surge in global commodity prices due to the Ukraine war “will have a much more pronounced impact on the March figures.”

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong slid 1.6% to 20,428.39.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo gained 0.7% to 24,973.73.

Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 climbed 1.1% to 7,054.60. New Zealand, Singapore and Jakarta rose while Bangkok retreated.

Benchmark U.S. crude rose $2.41 to $126.11 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $4.30 on Tuesday to $123.70.

Brent crude, the basis for international oil prices, gained $3.14 to $131.12 per barrel in London. It advanced $4.77 the previous session to $127.98.

Commodities markets have been roiled by Putin’s war because Russia is the No. 2 oil exporter and the No. 3 supplier of nickel, which is used in making electric car batteries, stainless steel and other products. Russia and Ukraine also are among the biggest global sellers of wheat.

Nickel prices doubled Tuesday to more than $100,000 per metric ton, prompting the London Metal Exchange to suspend trading.

A major Chinese producer of nickel and stainless steel, Tsingshan Group, faces potential losses of billions of dollars on futures contracts, The Asian Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News reported. A woman who answered the phone at Tsingshan’s headquarters hung up when told a reporter was calling.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell to 4,170.70 on Tuesday for its fourth straight daily decline. It is now 13.1% below its latest record high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.6% to 32,632.64. The Nasdaq composite retreated 0.3% to 12,795.55. On Monday, it closed 20% below its record high.

On Tuesday, Biden announced the United States would block imports of Russian crude to punish Putin for attacking Ukraine. Biden said he acted in consultation with European allies but acknowledged they are more dependent on Russian oil and gas and might not be able to make similar moves immediately.

Biden said Tuesday he hopes to limit the pain for Americans, but he acknowledged the ban will push up gasoline prices.

“Defending freedom is going to cost us as well,” he said.

Before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, financial markets already were uneasy about the global economic outlook as the Federal Reserve and other central banks prepare to try to cool inflation by withdrawing ultra-low interest rates and other stimulus.

In currency markets, the dollar advanced to 115.86 yen from Tuesday’s 115.74 yen. The euro gained to $1.0919 from $1.0908.