Oil prices surge more than 5% amid Ukraine conflict

SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific mostly tumbled in Wednesday trade as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict continued to lead to a surge in oil prices.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan dropped 1.94% while the Topix index shed 2.05%.

Mainland Chinese stocks were also lower, with the Shanghai composite down 0.41% while the Shenzhen component declined 1.251%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index shed 1.07%.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Kospi sat fractionally higher.

Elsewhere, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.11% on the back of positive economic data. Economic activity in Australia rose 3.4% in the fourth quarter from the third, according to data released Wednesday by the country’s Bureau of Statistics. That was above expectations in a Reuters poll for a 3% gain.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shed 0.53%.

Oil prices soar more than 4%

Oil prices continued their upward trek in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 4.43% to $109.62 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also saw big gains, rising 4.48% to $108.04 per barrel. Brent briefly climbed as high as $111.09 per barrel earlier, its highest in more than 7 years.

That’s despite the the International Energy Agency saying Tuesday it will release 60 million barrels of oil from global reserves, in a bid to ease the current supply constraint.

Oil prices have surged in recent days as Russia continued its assault on Ukraine, with U.S. crude futures hitting its highest level in seven years on Tuesday.

Overnight stateside, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 597.65 points to 33,294.95 while the S&P 500 shed 1.55% to 4,306.26. The Nasdaq Composite declined 1.59% to 13,532.46.

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The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.437 after a recent climb from levels below 97.

The Japanese yen traded at 115.04 per dollar, still stronger than levels around 115.6 seen against the greenback earlier this week. The Australian dollar was at $0.727, extending gains after climbing from below $0.72 earlier in the week.

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