Global Stocks Wobble, Oil and Bitcoin Ease Higher—and What Else Is Happening in the Stock Market Today

Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden have agreed in principle to a summit in Europe.

AFP via Getty Images

Global stocks wobbled on Monday as tensions remained high over the Russian military buildup on Ukraine’s border, with officials in the West continuing to fear an imminent war in Eastern Europe.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 index was down 0.1%, while bourses in Asia ended the trading day broadly lower. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 declined 0.8%.

U.S. stock and bond markets are closed Monday in observance of Presidents Day, but U.S. stock market futures continue to trade. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were 60 points or 0.2% higher; the index tumbled 232 points Friday to close at 34,079. S&P 500 futures were 0.1% into the green but futures for the Nasdaq were 0.1% lower.

Attention remains squarely focused on the prospect of Russia invading Ukraine. Russian troops have massed at the country’s borders in recent weeks amid Moscow’s objections to Ukraine’s possible membership in Nato, the Western defensive alliance.

Sentiment is being driven largely by headlines. U.S. officials said Sunday that they believed Russia had decided to invade Ukraine, which helped push stock market futures lower. An announcement of plans for President Joe Biden to meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin helped inject some optimism back into markets.

“The move into positive territory only came about due to an agreement in principle for U.S. President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet to avert a further slide into hostilities,” noted Michael Hewson, an analyst at broker CMC Markets . “The meeting was agreed on the basis that Russia stays out of Ukraine.”

“With markets already on edge at the end of last week, the increase in tensions over the weekend has merely served to put further downward pressure on markets, as violence in the eastern part of Ukraine ratchets up a notch,” Hewson added.

From an investor perspective, one of the most important implications of the Ukraine crisis is how it would impact the supply of oil. Global crude supply is already tight and demand fundamentals are strong; prices were trading around seven-year highs before Russia ratcheted up the pressure on Ukraine.

Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of oil, so sanctions or any other restrictions on its supply from war has the potential to cause the price of the commodity to surge even further.

Oil prices were volatile Monday. After tumbling from around $93 to $90 on Sunday as fears of imminent war eased, futures for U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate Crude rebounded slightly, up 0.5% on the day to $91.50.

In tandem with stocks, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have felt the pinch of a risk-averse mood among investors over the Ukraine crisis.

The leading digital asset was up almost 2% over the past 24 hours and holding firm around $39,000, according to data from CoinDesk. The crypto slumped below the key $40,000 mark on Friday and went as low as around $38,100 over the weekend.

Write to Jack Denton at jack.denton@dowjones.com

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