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After Sell-Off, Markets Watch Ukraine Developments Cautiously


Global stock markets reacted cautiously on Friday, with some European indexes posting tentative gains, after news that Russian and American foreign officials would meet next week following reports that shelling had intensified in Ukraine.

Futures on Wall Street pointed to a small rebound when trading starts after the S&P 500 lost more than 2 percent on Thursday. Oil prices also declined from their recent highs. Brent crude oil, the European benchmark, fell 2 percent to $91.08 a barrel. Futures for West Texas Intermediate dipped below $90 a barrel.

An increase in shelling along the front line between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists helped prompt a sell-off on Wall Street on Thursday as traders worried that a wider conflict could erupt between Russia and the West.

But traders’ worries of an imminent escalation in the conflict seemed to ease after reports that the U.S. secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, had accepted a proposal to meet with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, late next week, a sign that a diplomatic solution to the standoff might still be possible.

Asian stock indexes ended the day mixed. In China, the Shanghai composite closed up 0.7 percent, and Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 0.4 percent.

In Europe, indexes recouped some of Thursday’s losses. The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.2 percent, after falling 0.7 percent the previous day. The benchmark indexes in Britain and France also rose. And in the United States, the S&P 500 was expected to gain about 0.5 percent after falling 2.1 percent on Thursday.

“Blinken’s scheduled meeting with Lavrov next week has taken some of heat out of the situation for now,” London-based strategists at the Japanese bank Mizuho wrote in a note to clients.

Trading in recent days has been volatile, especially in the oil markets, where prices have reached levels not seen since 2014. Russia is a big oil producer and Europe’s largest supplier of natural gas, and an invasion of Ukraine would almost certainly push already costly energy prices higher.

But speculation grew that a new U.S.-Iran nuclear deal is nearing completion, which could revive Iran’s oil production and ease the pressure on oil prices.

Yields on U.S. 10-year Treasury bonds were flat early on Friday morning. The yield dropped to 1.96 percent on Thursday as stocks sold off, bucking the recent trend that had seen yields climb above 2 percent as investors try to discern when, and how fast, Federal Reserve policymakers will raise their benchmark rate to help curb inflation.

On Thursday night, Loretta Mester, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, said she believed it would be appropriate to increase rates at the Fed’s meeting in March and in the following months.

“If by midyear, I assess that inflation is not going to moderate as expected,” Ms. Mester said in a speech, “then I would support removing accommodation at a faster pace over the second half of the year.”



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