Second quarter begins; Russia-Ukraine in focus

LONDON — European markets nudged higher to start the second quarter on Friday, with talks between Russia and Ukraine continuing to guide investor sentiment.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 added 0.4% in early trade, with banks and retail climbing 1.3% to lead gains while oil and gas stocks slid 0.4%.

In terms of individual share price movement, British advertising company S4 Capital climbed 6.6% to lead the Stoxx 600, recovering from Thursday’s losses after pulling its quarterly results due to an auditing delay.

At the bottom of the index, Swedish real estate developer SBB fell 7.7%.

European stocks are coming off their first losing quarter in two years after closing Thursday’s session down 6.3% since the start of the year.

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have yielded little fruit thus far, with Kyiv and its Western allies remaining skeptical of Moscow’s intentions and the legitimacy of its commitment to partial military pullbacks in northern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that gas exports to “unfriendly” states will be halted from Friday unless they pay in rubles, furthering global energy supply concerns. However, European leaders have indicated that this demand will not apply to Russia’s European customers.

Markets in Asia-Pacific pulled back on Friday following overnight losses on Wall Street, while a private survey showed Chinese manufacturing activity shrank in March as the country battles its most severe Covid-19 outbreak since the onset of the pandemic.

U.S. stock futures ticked higher on Friday as investors awaited the Labor Department’s official jobs report for March, due at 1:30 p.m. London time.

Investors stateside appear for now to have shaken off a troublesome bond market recession indicator that was triggered after Thursday’s closing bell on Wall Street. The 2-year and 10-year Treasury yields inverted for the first time since 2019.

On the data front, euro zone flash inflation readings are due at 10 a.m. London time, with inflation in the bloc running at record highs.

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