Asian markets mixed, oil drops on Biden-Putin hope
Equities were mixed Monday while oil prices eased after presidents Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin agreed in principle to hold a summit to try to find a way out of the Ukraine crisis.
Warnings from US officials that Russia could invade its neighbour imminently have sent markets spiralling in the past week and sent crude surging towards $100 a barrel as traders fret over already tight supplies.
The crisis has compounded worries about inflation, which is sitting at a 40-year high and putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to hike interest rates with investors speculating over how fast and hard it will move.
Monday's session started on a negative note, with markets suffering hefty falls but the losses were reduced after the US and Russian leaders said they would hold talks on Ukraine, as long as Putin does not invade.
The United States is "committed to pursuing diplomacy until the moment an invasion begins", Biden's press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. "President Biden accepted in principle a meeting with President Putin ... if an invasion hasn't happened."
"We are also ready to impose swift and severe consequences should Russia instead choose war. And currently, Russia appears to be continuing preparations for a full-scale assault on Ukraine very soon."
The news raised hopes for a peaceful conclusion to the standoff, though traders remain on edge.
Tokyo, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, Manila and Bangkok were in the red, though Sydney, Mumbai, Singapore and Jakarta edged up slightly. Shanghai was flat.
Gold, a safe-haven asset in times of turmoil, slipped.
Warren Patterson, of ING Groep NV, said: "A proposed summit does offer some relief to the market, as it suggests that both sides are still possibly open to dialogue.
"Asset prices, particularly commodities, will continue to be heavily influenced by Russia-Ukraine noise."
Oil eased on easing fears about the possibility of supplies being hit by any conflict in eastern Europe, though surging demand as the global economy reopens continues to put upward pressure on the commodity.
Observers are warning $100 will soon be breached and could hold above that level for an extended period, even if talks on Iran's nuclear programme succeed and lead to the resumption of Tehran's crude exports.
The sharp rise in crude is a key driver of inflation across the planet, adding to supply chain snarls and bottlenecks.
While expectations are for a Fed rate hike next month, some bank officials at the weekend indicated they were not in favour of a 50 basis point rise, as has been suggested in light of consumer price hikes.
The prospect of higher borrowing costs this year has weighed on markets for months, bringing a near two-year equity rally to an end with commentators predicting further volatility down the line.
"Global data and central banks' stance on tightening are all taking a backseat to Ukraine, with markets nervously awaiting the next headline," Su-Lin Ong, at Royal Bank of Canada, said. "Thinner liquidity because of the US holiday adds to the anxiety."
- Key figures around 0710 GMT -
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.8 percent at 26,910.87 (close)
Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.8 percent at 24,142.59
Shanghai - Composite: FLAT at 3,490.61 (close)
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.4 percent at $90.70 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.3 percent at $93.26 per barrel
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1369 from $1.1323 late Thursday
Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3623 from $1.3593
Euro/pound: UP at 83.44 pence from 83.30 pence
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 114.95 yen from 115.03 yen
New York - Dow: DOWN 0.7 percent at 34,079.18 (close)
London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,513.62 (close)
-- Bloomberg News contributed to this story --