Wall Street lost further ground Friday, with the Dow Jones tumbling almost 400 points at the open while the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 1% and 0.5%, respectively. Market sentiment remained dominated by war headlines, with Russian forces attacking and taking over Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine. On the data front, the American economy added 678K jobs in February of 2022, the most in seven months and way above market forecasts of 400K. The job market report came on the heels of a hot inflation reading last month, which brought forward the expectations of more aggressive action from the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, Retailer Gap and restaurant chain Sweetgreen shares surged after upbeat earnings reports. Wall Street is now poised to end the week on a sour note.
The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 2.23% to close at 25,985 and the broader Topix Index fell 1.96% to 1,845 on. Japanese shares also tracked overnight losses on Wall Street as markets remained jittery over geopolitical and economic uncertainties. Nearly all sectors in Japan participated in the selloff, with sharp losses from Lasertec (-5.9%), SoftBank (-4.8%), Toyota (-3.6%), Tokyo Electron (-3.8%) and Sony Group (-3.2%). Meanwhile, Japanese carmakers halted exports to Russia on supply chain issues, while Japanese airliners suspended flights to Europe citing safety concerns amid heavy fighting in Ukraine. The Nikkei 225 Index lost 1.85% this week for its third straight weekly decline.
European equity markets closed sharply lower on Friday, with the DAX ending at an over 14-month low and the Stoxx 600 down to a 1-year low, led by declines in banks, much more jobs than expected in February. European stocks markets are down for the third week in a row, and saw the worst weekly drop since March 2020.
The FTSE 100 tumbled over 3% to around 7,000 on Friday, the lowest closing level since October 2021, while it plunged over 6% this week, the worst week since the pandemic-induced selloff in March 2020. In the latest developments, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy he would seek an emergency UN Security Council meeting on the matter. Burberry Group and Smurfit Kappa Group were among the biggest losers, down over 8% each.
The CAC 40 Index plunged 5% to close at 6,061 on Friday, its lowest since the end of March last .Societe Generale (-10%) led the losses in Paris after warning investors of the possibility that Russia could strip its local operations. The lender fell 27% this week due to its USD 20 billion exposure to Russia through its subsidiary Rosbank. The auto sector also took losses, driven by Michelin (-7.2%) after the tire manufacturer announced it halted production in multiple European factories for a few days due to supply difficulties from the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Renault (-4.4%) shares also significantly fell, as exposure to the Russian market through its subsidiary Avtovaz continued to pressure the French producer. The CAC 40 fell over 10% this week, marking its sixth week in the red in the last seven weeks.
The FTSE MIB Index plunged 6.2% to close at 22,465 on Friday, extending yesterday’s decline to a 13-month low.. The financial sector fell 6%, led by UniCredit (-15%) after the lender suspended its efforts to buy Banco BPM (-8.7%) due to UniCredit’s heavy losses since the start of Russia’s invasion. The bank has lost over 28% of its value on the week. At the same time, Telecom Italia (-15.6%) continued to plunge, as investors digested the company’s record EUR 8.7 billion loss in 2021 and the rejection of KKR’s acquisition bid of EUR 10.8 billion, as it prepares to spin-off its its landline network assets. Risk-off sentiment due to the war in Ukraine led the FTSE MIB closed the week nearly 13% down.
The BSE Sensex plunged by 768.87 points or 1.4% to close at 54,333.81 on Friday, extending declines for the third consecutive session and joining a global sell-off. A consequent rally in crude oil prices also instilled fears among investors that inflation could exceed RBI’s tolerance level, although temporarily. Autos, capital goods and financials led the declines with 23 out of 30 stocks ending in the red. Among the individual stocks, notable draggers included Titan (-5.05%), Maruti (-4.66%), Asian Paints (-4.61%), Mahindra and Mahindra (-3.9%) and Hindustan Unilever Limited (-3.43%). On the week, the BSE booked a 2.7% loss.
The Shanghai Composite fell 0.96% to close at 3,448 while the Shenzhen Component lost 1.37% to 13,020 on Friday. Mainland stocks struggled for momentum as investors weighed external risk aversion against expectations of domestic policy easing, with the Shanghai Index falling slightly by 0.11% this week. Nearly all sectors in China declined on Friday, with notable losses from China Vanke (-4%), BYD Company (-4.7%), Contemporary Amper (-4.1%), ABA Chemicals (-4.5%) and Thunder Software (-19%). Meanwhile, China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank announced that “all activities relating to Russia and Belarus are on hold and under review” due to Russia’s war on Ukraine.