U.S. stock futures wobbled Friday as investors gauged the Ukraine war’s impact on commodity prices and inflation.
Futures tied to the S&P 500 wavered between small gains and losses, indicating that the broad-market index could hover after it closed up 1.4% on Wednesday. Nasdaq-100 futures were also mostly flat, suggesting that technology stocks may hold on to the previous day’s gains after the opening bell.
Stocks have swung this week as the war in Ukraine drove concerns about inflation and disruptions to commodity supplies amid mixed economic data. President Biden said the U.S. will respond if Russia uses chemical weapons and called for the country to be expelled from the G-20, spurring fears of further escalation. The S&P 500 has moved more than 1% in either direction every day this week since Tuesday and is currently up 1.3% for the week so far.
“Markets are trying to price something that is basically impossible to price, as part of what’s going on in the world depends on Putin’s thinking which nobody knows,” said Fahad Kamal, chief investment officer at Kleinwort Hambros. “The longer the conflict lasts, the higher the upside to inflation, the lower the downside to growth. It’s massively, radically uncertain.”
The recent rebound in stocks has been driven by investors buying the dip, amplified by the bout of high inflation, he said. “Every time there’s a significant fall, you see cash rushing in and that has continued to a large degree. When you’ve got inflation at 8%, cash is being crucified and needs a place to go,” Mr. Kamal said.
Oil prices slipped, with global benchmark Brent crude declining 1% to $114.12 a barrel. Brent has gained around 7% this week as self-sanctioning measures by trading houses and refineries to avoid Russian oil began to feed into the market, traders said.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note edged up to 2.363% from 2.340% on Thursday. It has risen for 11 out of 14 of the past trading days. Bonds typically underperform in times of high inflation because the value of fixed cash flows are eroded. Yields and prices move in opposite directions
A survey of consumer confidence in the U.S. for March is set to go out at 11 a.m. ET. The metric has been slipping in recent months as consumers, particularly lower-income households, had more pessimistic outlooks on the economy.
Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 added 0.2%.
Russian stocks fell 3.5% a day after the Moscow stock exchange partially reopened after a month-long closure, reversing some of Wednesday’s 4.4% jump. Gazprom slid 9.4% and Russia’s largest lender
The ruble appreciated 3.5% against the dollar, trading at around 99 rubles to $1. It has weakened 24% since the start of the year.
In Asia, major benchmarks were mixed. Chinese stocks came under pressure as a U.S. watchdog said delisting U.S.-listed Chinese stocks was still on the table. The Shanghai Composite Index slipped 1.2% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 2.5%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 edged up 0.1%.
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