LONDON -- Relief that U.S. and European sanctions imposed in the wake of the Crimea referendum failed to touch on Russia’s vital economic interests helped global stock markets power ahead on Monday, particularly in Moscow.
After the referendum in the Ukrainian region of Crimea, which saw overwhelming support for the idea of joining Russia, the U.S. imposed sanctions on seven Russian government officials as well as four Ukrainians, including former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The EU slapped travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people from Russia and Crimea. Those targeted are seen as having played key roles in what the U.S. and the EU consider to be an unlawful referendum.
The early response in financial markets suggests that most investors think the sanctions are fairly minimal and unlikely to trigger to a big response from Russia.
"So far the sanctions seem fairly toothless and much less severe than had been expected last week," said Kathleen Brooks, research director at Forex.com. "From the market’s perspective, the biggest risk was that the referendum would trigger tough sanctions against Russia that could lead to another Cold War."
That certainly appears to be the case in Moscow, where the main RTS index spiked 4.9 percent on Monday. Elsewhere in Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares closed up 1.4 percent at 6,568.35 while Germany’s DAX rose 1.2 percent to 9,180.89. The CAC-40 in France ended 1.3 percent higher at 4,271.96.
In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was up 1.1 percent at 16,237 while the broader S&P 500 index rose 0.9 percent at 1,858.
Later this week, the focus in global markets will be on Wednesday’s policy meeting at the U.S. Federal Reserve. Figures showing U.S. industrial production rose by a greater than expected 0.6 percent in February reinforced market expectations that the Fed will continue trimming its monetary stimulus program at the pace it has already set. It is expected to cut the stimulus by $10 billion for a third time to $55 billion worth of monthly bond purchases.
Worries over the Chinese economy, the world’s number 2, have also been a driver in financial markets over the past few weeks, particularly in Asia.
Earlier, Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 percent to close at 14,277.67 while South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.4 percent to 1,927.53. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped 0.3 percent to 21,473.95. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite rose 1 percent to 2,023.67 after officials announced on the weekend that exchange rate controls would be modestly eased. It was the latest step in an eventual plan to let the yuan float freely.
The dollar rose to 6.1773 yuan, up 0.4 percent from late Friday, and is at the highest since the end of June last year, according to FactSet data. The yuan has reversed course recently after strengthening steadily for years. Analysts believe the central bank is guiding the exchange rate lower against the dollar in an effort to discourage speculators from moving money into the country to profit from the yuan’s rise.
The dollar was firm against the yen too, trading 0.3 percent higher at 101.60 yen. However, the euro rose 0.1 percent to $1.3924.