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Global stocks rebound as Kyiv burns

February 25, 2022, 10:13 AM UTC

Russia’s stock market bounced back sharply out of the gates on Friday, rising as much as 25% at one point before falling back some. At 4 a.m., stocks on the MOEX, or Moscow Exchange, were up 14%.

The rally in risk assets comes as Russian troops close in on Ukrainian capital Kyiv with a crippling assault on the city of 2.8 million. It also comes hours after a fresh volley of sanctions declared by the Biden administration, the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, and the European Union against Russian companies and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Even with today’s topsy-turvy rally, Russian stocks have still fallen about 20% over the past two trading sessions. Yesterday’s plunge of 33% on the MOEX was one for the record books, wiping out $189 billion in investors’ paper wealth.

“For what it’s worth, those equity declines are the sort that would trigger circuit breakers if they happened elsewhere. For example, we couldn’t see that for the S&P 500 in a single day, since trading rules stipulate that there’s a complete halt for the day once you get to a –20% loss,” Deutsche Bank thematic research strategist Jim Reid told clients in an investor note on Friday.

Sanctions and refugees on the move

Elsewhere, European stocks are bouncing back after a brutal selloff on Thursday. The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 traded 0.7% higher with all sectors but energy in the green in the opening hour of trade. This follows a big afternoon rally on Thursday in the U.S. after Biden held a press conference about a new round of sanctions against Russia and Putin’s inner circle. The Nasdaq closed up 3.3% after starting the day deep in the red. The tech-heavy index climbed an impressive 886 points from its nadir. Asian markets were also largely in the green, with the Nikkei closing up nearly 2%. Bitcoin, too, jumped.

The risk-on mood comes with increasing uncertainty surrounding Ukraine, whose future looks grim. Neighboring European countries are bracing for a massive flow of refugees from war-torn Ukraine. Meanwhile, energy prices around Europe are spiking, as are food prices.

Why were the buy-the-dippers back in force yesterday in the U.S., and today in Europe at the opening bell? UBS economist Paul Donovan believes it could have something to do with what we’ve seen from the first batch of sanctions put on Russian companies. With SWIFT off the table for the moment, the measures by the West stop far short of extreme penalties.

“Additional sanctions announced against Russia matter to Russia, but the domestic Russian economy does not matter much to the global economy (and energy supplies are still flowing). Any second-round effects of sanctions are likely to be Russian-focused,” he wrote in a Friday investor note.

Crude, bonds, and futures

Elsewhere on Friday, Brent crude is holding steady around $100, as are natural gas prices in Europe. Treasury yields are steady, signaling the flight into safe haven bonds is on pause. Speaking of safe havens…gold and the dollar are in retreat.

U.S. futures, meanwhile, are under pressure. At 4:30 a.m. ET, all three major U.S. exchanges point to losses of about 1% at the open. Crypto, too, was in the red, but only slightly. That’s after Bitcoin rallied on Thursday afternoon alongside U.S. stocks.

Among the stocks to watch on Friday: Coinbase Global was down 3% in premarket after the crypto-trading exchange gave investors a lukewarm trading forecast following the close on Thursday. Investors are punishing Beyond Meat, too. The producer of plant-based meat substitutes is off more than 10% in premarket after the company reported a big bottom-line miss.

Check out this Fortune must-read: “Tech investors are suffering the second stocks rout of the COVID pandemic—and Wall Street thinks it could get far worse”