European markets as Russian convoy appears to head for Kyiv

LONDON — European stocks were slightly lower on Tuesday morning amid reports that a significant Russian convoy is heading towards Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 dropped 1.9% by early afternoon, with travel and leisure stocks plunging 5.7% to lead losses as all sectors and major bourses slid into negative territory.

Russia appeared to have upped the ante in its invasion of Ukraine overnight with reports and satellite imagery emerging of a long convoy, some 40 miles (65km) long, of Russian military vehicles heading towards Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.

The satellite images were taken by Maxar Technologies on Monday and show a convoy of armored trucks travelling sometimes two or three vehicles abreast on the road. Official sources have not confirmed the convoy, however.

Other images from Maxar suggest additional military activity in southern Belarus, which borders Ukraine and is an ally of Russia, with ground forces deployments and ground attack helicopter units seen in the images. Again, official sources have not confirmed whether these units are preparing to join Russian forces in an assault on Ukraine. On Monday there were unconfirmed reports that Belarus could be preparing to help Russia’s invasion.

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Asia-Pacific markets mostly rose Tuesday while U.S. stock futures retreated in premarket before the first trading session of March as investors continued to monitor the fighting between Russia and Ukraine.

Earnings in Europe came from Bayer, Covestro, HelloFresh and Zalando.

Shares in companies perceived by the market to be exposed to Russia continued to take a hit, with Anglo-Russian miner Polymetal International plunging a further 26% by early afternoon trade.

At the top of the index, German defense company Rheinmetall continued to climb following the German government’s vow to boost defense spending, with shares adding 13% on Tuesday.

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