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Shares have tumbled after a fire burned for several hours at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, the largest of its kind in Europe, following shelling from Russian forces. It was later put out and Ukrainian authorities said the reactors were safe. The International Atomic Energy Agency said the fire had not affected “essential” equipment. However, the incident underlined the dangers to a nuclear plant in the midst of a conflict. Reuters reported that Russian forces have seized the power station, citing Ukrainian authorities.
Major stock indices in Asia fell sharply, with Japan’s Nikkei closing 2.2% lower and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng losing 2.7%. European markets are expected to open lower again, after heavy losses in recent days. The Moscow stock exchange will stay shut for a fifth day.
The international benchmark Brent crude jumped above $114 a barrel but later retreated to just under $112 a barrel, up 1.3% on the day.
The head of the IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said he was “deeply concerned” about the situation at the nuclear plant.
Russia’s week-long invasion of Ukraine has sparked a rally in commodities prices amid fears of supply disruption. Wheat prices hit a fresh 14-year high yesterday, with Chicago futures closing almost 22% higher at $12.89 a bushel. In Asia today, Chinese wheat prices jumped 6% to an all-time high of 3,595 renminbi a metric tonne.
Aluminium, which has hit several fresh record peaks this week, is heading for the biggest weekly gain on record, up more than 13% so far, as fears of supply disruption deepened. The metal touched an all-time peak of $3,850 a tonne this morning. Benchmark nickel rose 2.7% and hovered close to a seven-year high of $27,976 a tonne touched on Thursday. Russia is a major producer of both metals, wheat and other commodities.
James Rutherford has resigned from the board of Evraz, the London-listed steel and mining group in which Roman Abramovich holds a 29% stake. The news comes a day after the Institute of Directors urged British directors to stand down from the boards of Russian companies.
The London Stock Exchange has suspended the stock listings of several more Russian-based companies, including Sistema and Magnit, after suspending 27 yesterday.
- 9am GMT: Italy GDP for fourth quarter (final)
- 9am GMT: UK New car sales
- 9.30am GMT: UK Construction PMI
- 10am GMT: Eurozone retail sales for January
- 1.30pm GMT: US Non-farm payrolls for February (forecast: 400,000)