Asian Shares Plunge On Inflation Worries

Asian stocks plunged on Monday as Brent crude hit an intraday high of $139 a barrel, the highest since 2008, amid fears of a U.S. and European ban on Russian oil.

Chinese shares fell after data showed the country’s export growth slowed in the January-February period due to the weeklong Lunar New Year holiday. Meanwhile, China signaled more stimulus is in the cards by setting an economic growth target above forecasts. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 74.79 points, or 2.2 percent, to 3,372.86.

Hong Kong stocks plunged to their lowest level in more than five years on concerns the war in Ukraine will worsen inflation. The Hang Seng Index plummeted 847.66 points, or 3.9 percent, to 21,057.63.

Japanese shares ended deep in the red, as investors remained wary of the inflationary impact from the spike in oil prices. The Nikkei 225 Index dove 764.06 points, or 2.9 percent, to settle at 25,221.41, its lowest close since November 2020. The broader Topix ended 2.8 percent lower at 1,794.03. SoftBank Group, Panasonic, Advantest and Toyota lost 5-7 percent.

Australian markets hit a one-week low as financial and technology stocks suffered broad-based losses, overshadowing gains in the energy and mining sectors. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 72.20 points, or 1 percent, to 7,038.60. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 74.10 points, or 1 percent, at 7,321.20.

Banks ANZ, NAB and Westpac declined 1-2 percent, while Block Inc. led tech stocks lower to end down more than 10 percent. Airline Qantas slumped 7.9 percent.

Firmer commodity prices helped lift miners, with BHP and Fortescue Metals Group rising 0.9 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively. Oil and gas explorer Woodside Petroleum surged 9.5 percent and Santos added 5.3 percent as oil prices spiked to 2008 highs.

Gold miners Newcrest Mining and Northern Star Resources climbed 5-6 percent after gold prices rose above $2,000 per ounce.

Seoul stocks plunged amid heightened concerns about the impact of the Ukraine-Russia conflict on inflation and the global economic recovery. The Kospi tumbled 62.12 points, or 2.3 percent, to 2,651.31 amid a sell-off by foreign and institutional investors.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics gave up 2 percent, No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix plunged 4 percent, internet portal operator Naver lost 3.3 percent and leading chemical firm LG Chem shed 3.9 percent.

New Zealand shares also fell sharply, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index ending down 228.50 points, or 1.9 percent, at 11,913.27 as the oil price spike spelled troubled for global growth.

a2 Milk lost 2.2 percent and Air New Zealand gave up 3.6 percent, while NZ Refining and NZ Oil & Gas both rose about 1 percent.

U.S. stocks fell on Friday as a surge in commodity prices over fears of supply disruptions overshadowed positive U.S. employment data for February.

Data showed non-farm payroll employment spiked by 678,000 jobs in February after an increase of upwardly revised 481,000 jobs in January.

The jobless rate dipped to 3.8 percent in February from 4.0 percent in January but wage growth slowed a little in the month.

The Dow dropped half a percent, the S&P 500 slid 0.8 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 1.7 percent.

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