start of second quarter; Russia-Ukraine in focus

LONDON – European markets got off to a cautious start to the second quarter on Friday, with talks between Russia and Ukraine continuing to dominate investor sentiment.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 hovered around the zero line in early trade, with retail stocks adding 0.6% to add gains while technology stocks fell 0.6%.

European equities endured their first quarter of losses in two years after closing Thursday’s session down 6.3% year-to-date.

Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine have so far borne little fruit, with Kyiv and its western allies skeptical about Moscow’s intentions and the legitimacy of its commitment to a partial military withdrawal 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, further adding to concerns about global energy supplies. However, European leaders have indicated that this requirement will not apply to Russia’s European customers.

Asia-Pacific markets retreated on Friday after overnight losses on Wall Street, while a private survey showed that Chinese manufacturing activity fell in March as the country battles its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic began .

US stock futures ticked higher on Friday as investors awaited the official Labor Department jobs report for March, which was due at 1:30pm London time.

Investors in the US appear to have shrugged off a pesky bond market recession indicator that triggered after Thursday’s closing bell on Wall Street. 2-year and 10-year Treasury yields reversed for the first time since 2019.

On the data front, flash inflation readings are due for the Eurozone at 10am London time, with inflation hitting record highs on the bloc.

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Chrissy Callahan

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