Tumultuous month for markets with Russia-Ukraine war

LONDON – European stocks are expected to open higher on the last trading day of March, a month marked by global geopolitical and economic uncertainty after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The UK’s FTSE index is seen opening 22 points higher at 7,578, Germany’s DAX 94 points higher at 14,660, France’s CAC 40 up 48 points at 6,763 and Italy’s FTSE MIB 62 points higher at 24,778, according to data from IG.

Geopolitical uncertainty and concerns over rising inflation have dominated market sentiment in March. Both European and US markets traded lower Wednesday following disappointment after talks between Russia and Ukraine, aimed at finding a solution to the conflict, again appeared to make little progress.

Russia said Tuesday it would reduce its military presence in some parts of Ukraine, but several countries – including the US and UK – remained skeptical over Moscow’s pledge, and Russian attacks on Ukraine continued Wednesday.

Oil prices are also casting a shadow over sentiment. US crude prices climbed more than 3% on Wednesday as Germany warned of potential rationing of natural gas due to disputes with Russia, and US crude stockpiles fell.

Oil prices fell sharply during Asia trading hours overnight, however, with international benchmark Brent crude futures falling 4.82% to $ 107.98 per barrel. US crude futures dropped 5.62% to $ 101.76 per barrel.

US President Joe Biden’s administration is considering a plan to release 1 million barrels of oil per day from the strategic petroleum reserve for about six months, a source told NBC News. Global oil prices have spiked in volatile trade since Russia invaded Ukraine more than a month ago.

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Globally, US stock futures were slightly higher in overnight trading Wednesday ahead of the last trading day of the month and quarter. Investors stateside are awaiting weekly jobless claims and personal income and spending data to be released Thursday morning. In Asia-Pacific markets overnight, shares were mixed.

Upcoming data releases include fourth-quarter UK GDP and the euro area unemployment rate for February. NATO is set to release the military alliance’s annual report and OPEC and non-OPEC allies, including Russia, will hold a ministerial meeting.

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– CNBC’s Eustance Huang contributed to this market report.

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