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Eurozone stocks, euro tumble as Russia fuels energy crisis

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The European Central Bank is expected to lift interest rates this week as it tries to battle soaring inflation, even as the region's economy faces an energy crisis and possible recession./AFP
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Sep 06, 2022 - 12:03 PM

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM — Eurozone stocks tumbled Monday and the euro hit a new 20-year dollar low on energy crisis fears, after Russia said it would not restart gas flows to Germany and effectively most of the continent.

Natural gas prices spiked almost a third, while oil added to strong gains as OPEC and its Russia-led allies decided at a meeting Monday to lower crude output in a bid to lift prices.

Europe’s fast-moving gas crisis sent Frankfurt equities slumping more than three percent before trimming losses, while Paris shed two percent at one stage.

The gas crisis also hit the pound, which hit a post-pandemic low of $1.1444. It pulled back up to above $1.15 after Liz Truss was confirmed as the successor to Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson. London’s blue-chip FTSE-100 index eked out a gain.

‘Weaponization of energy’ 

“Russia’s ongoing weaponization of energy supplies continues to increase downside risks for European economies and the euro,” said Lee Hardman, currency analyst at financial services group MUFG.

The euro sank Monday to $0.9878, its lowest since December 2002, despite expectations the European Central Bank will hike interest rates again Thursday to combat soaring inflation.

The shared eurozone unit has collapsed by about 13 percent against the dollar since the start of the year, hit also by the US Federal Reserve’s more aggressive monetary tightening.

State gas giant Gazprom announced late Friday the key Nord Stream pipeline would remain shut indefinitely, blaming leaks.

Gazprom’s announcement came the same day as the G7 nations said they would work to quickly implement a price cap on Russian oil exports, a move that would starve the Kremlin of critical revenue for its war on Ukraine.

Resumption of deliveries via the pipeline, which runs from near Saint Petersburg to Germany under the Baltic Sea, had been due to resume on Saturday after what Gazprom had described as three days of maintenance work.

‘Grim shadow before winter’ 

The news intensified an energy crisis caused by Europe’s sanctions on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine in February.

Investors are fearful of an energy supply crunch during the peak-demand northern hemisphere winter.

That could potentially lead to a painful recession.

“Russia’s decision to turn off Europe’s gas hangs over the continent like a grim shadow ahead of winter,” said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

But Michael Hewson at CMC Markets said the surge in gas prices on Monday was “relatively modest in nature, probably because to some extent markets had expected this card to get played at some point, just not as soon as it has.”

At the same time, governments worldwide are grappling with the impact of rocketing domestic energy costs.

Germany on Sunday unveiled a new 65-billion-euro package to help households cope with soaring prices, and eyed windfall profits from energy companies to help fund the move.

That took Berlin’s total relief to almost 100 billion euros since the start of the Ukraine war.

Elsewhere on Monday, Asian bourses experienced mixed trade as last week’s upbeat US jobs report partly offset fears over Europe’s outlook — and China’s new Covid lockdowns.

US markets were closed Monday for a public holiday.

Key figures at around 1530 GMT 

London – FTSE 100: UP less than 0.1 percent at 7,287.43 points (close)

Frankfurt – DAX: DOWN 2.2 percent at 12,760.78 (close)

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 1.2 percent at 6,093.22 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 1.5 percent at 3,490.01

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 27,619.61 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.2 percent at 19,225.70 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.4 percent at 3,199.91 (close)

New York – Dow: Closed Monday for public holiday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $0.9921 from $0.9954 on Friday

Dollar/yen: UP at 140.53 yen from 140.20 yen

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.1507 from $1.1509

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.22 pence from 86.48 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 3.0 percent at $89.44 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 3.1 percent at $95.93 per barrel

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