World stocks tumble on Ukraine anxiety

US figures boost taper views; China data fuels fears

By Marc Jones (Reuters)

Published: Sat 15 Mar 2014, 10:05 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 4:50 AM

Heightened tensions between the West and Russia ahead of Ukraine’s weekend referendum in Crimea pushed world stocks to their lowest in more than a month on Friday and left investors scurrying into safe-haven gold and bonds.

Wall Street was set to add to this week’s losses, while a third straight day of declines on European stock markets left them down almost one per cent and potentially facing their biggest weekly drop since June when the Federal Reserve hinted it would taper economic stimulus.

Hardest hit was Moscow’s Micex index. It fell more than 5 per cent before clawing back some of its losses to be down 2.5 per cent. There was no let up for the rouble either as it rumbled along at an all-time low.

“The Ukraine is one of the most serious geopolitical situations at the moment and how it plays out is difficult to forecast,” Salman Ahmed, a global fixed-income strategist at the investment arm of Swiss private bank Lombard Odier, said.

With Russian assets continuing to slump, investors were taking the view that while the situation was hurting, Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin were unlikely to flinch.

The East-West tensions were not the only thing weighing on markets, however. Jitters also remained over the degree to which China’s economy is slowing after unsettling data this weak.

The MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan touched its lowest level since mid-February. Tokyo ended the week down more than 6 per cent after 3.3 per cent dive on Friday.

Among Europe’s main indexes, Germany’s DAX, whose constituents are heavily exposed to Russia, saw the steepest falls as a one per cent fall saw it heading for its biggest weekly drop since the height of the euro crisis in June 2012.

One of the reasons for the Nikkei’s decline was that the developments in the Ukraine crisis sent the safe-haven yen soaring against both the dollar and the euro.

As US trading began, the greenback was down about 0.5 per cent at 101.20 yen, while the euro slipped a similar amount to 140.45 yen. The euro was steady at $1.3876.

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