Asian stock markets plunge after Putin announces military action in Ukraine

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Asian stock markets plunged and oil prices surged to nearly $100 a barrel Thursday after President Vladimir Putin announced Russian military action in Ukraine.

Market benchmarks in Tokyo and Seoul fell 2%. Hong Kong and Sydney lost more than 3%.

Oil prices jumped more than $4 on anxiety about possible disruptions of Russian supplies. The ruble fell 4.4% against the dollar.

U.S. futures were also sharply lower and the future for Germany’s DAX lost more than 4%.

Putin said the military operation was needed to protect civilians in eastern Ukraine, a claim Washington had predicted he would make to justify an invasion. As Putin spoke, explosions were heard in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other areas of Ukraine.

President Joe Biden denounced the attack as “unprovoked and unjustified” and said Moscow would be held accountable, which many took to mean Washington and its allies would impose additional sanctions. Putin accused them of ignoring Russia’s demand to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO and to offer Moscow security guarantees.

“The relief rally has quickly reversed course,” said Jeffrey Halley of Oanda in a report. “Equities are tanking in Asia.”

On Wednesday, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index fell 1.8% to an eight-month low after the Kremlin said rebels in eastern Ukraine asked for military assistance. Moscow had sent soldiers to some rebel-held areas after recognizing them as independent.

Washington, Britain, Japan and the 27-nation European Union earlier imposed sanctions on Russian banks, officials and business leaders. Potential options for more penalties including barring Russia from the global system for bank transactions.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 2.2% to 25,855.04 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 3.1% to 22,925.60. The Shanghai Composite Index was off 0.9% at 3,458.12.

Asian economies face lower risks than Europe does, but those that need imported oil might be hit by higher prices if supplies from Russia, the third-largest producer, are disrupted, forecasters say.

The Kospi in Seoul lost 2.6% to 2,649.29 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 fell 3.1% to 6,983.40..

New Zealand lost 2.8% and Southeast Asian markets also fell.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell to 4,225.50. That put it 11.9% below its Jan. 3 record, solidly in a correction, or a decline of more than 10% from its latest peak.

More than 85% of stocks in the S&P 500 fell. Tech companies weighing down the index most.

The Nasdaq, dominated by technology stocks, lost 2.6% to 13,037.49, led by steep losses in Apple and Microsoft. That put the index 18.8% below its November 2021 high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4% to 33,131.76.

Investors already were uneasy about the possible impact of the Federal Reserve’s plans to try to cool inflation by withdrawing ultra-low interest rates and other stimulus that boosted share prices.

Since the start of the year, Facebook parent Meta is down 41.4%, Tesla is off 36.3% and Microsoft is down 16.3%, while Apple and Google’s parent Alphabet are both down 12.9%.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude jumped $4.36 to $96.46 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 25 cents to $92.10 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, advanced $4.32 to $98.37 per barrel in London. It lost 20 cents to $94.05 the previous session.

The dollar weakened to 114.56 yen from Wednesday’s 114.98 yen. The euro fell to $1.1211 from $1.1306.

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