Market Snapshot: U.S. stock futures under pressure as Russia-Ukraine conflict intensifies with fire at Ukrainian nuclear plant

U.S. stock-index futures were falling on Friday, though having pared deeper losses after reports that Russian shelling had caused a fire at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, raising fears of an unprecedented nuclear disaster.

Ukrainian officials later said the fire, in a training building of the facility, had been extinguished.

How are stock index-futures trading?

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures

dropped 273 points, or 0.8%, to 33,462

S&P 500 futures

fell 36 points, or 0.8%, to 4,323

Nasdaq-100 futures

dropped 103 points, or 0.7%, to 13,926

On Thursday, the stock market failed to hold on to gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average

closed down 96.69 points, or 0.3%, to 33,794.66; the S&P 500

 fell 23.05 points, or 0.5%, ending at 4,363.49; and the Nasdaq Composite

 ended 214.07 points lower, or 1.6%, finishing at 13,537.94.

What’s driving markets?

Little changed before news of the attack. Dow futures plunged about 500 points immediately after the first reports of the nuclear plant fire emerged late Thursday, with S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 futures following a similar path, making up lost ground as the night went on, after steep initial declines.

According to Associated Press reports, the nuclear power plant in the southern Ukrainian city of Enerhodar had been shelled by Russian troops, sparking a fire at the facility. The plant reportedly has six reactors, and three had been offline before the attack.

Ukrainian state emergency services later said on Facebook

that the fire had been in a training building and had been contained. The regional military service said early measurements on Friday showed radiation was “unchanged” and was posing no danger to the population.

International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi tweeted that he was “deeply concerned” with the situation at that power plant, appealing to “parties to refrain from actions that can put NPPs in danger.”

In a series of tweets, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called Russia’s military operations at the plant “reckless,” but said “We have seen no elevated radiation readings near the facility” and added that the reactors are being safely shut down.

As the fire burned, Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, tweeted that potential fallout could be worse than the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and said “Russians must IMMEDIATELY cease the fire, allow firefighters, establish a security zone!”

According to experts, the risk lies if the plant loses power and is unable to cool the nuclear material — leading to a meltdown, which could be accompanied by an explosion.

Investors will be waiting for February nonfarm payrolls data, the unemployment rate and average hourly earnings, all due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Meanwhile, safe-haven assets were on the rise as the Russia-Ukraine war intensified. Gold prices climbed 0.5% to $1,946 an ounce, with the ICE Dollar Index

up 0.3% and bond yields falling, with that of the 10-year down 6 basis points to 1.785%.

“Traders may be unwilling to hold risk over the weekend, given the reality of a hot war in Ukraine and that the situation can move in any direction,” said a strategy team at Saxo Bank, in a note to clients.

Crude prices remained elevated, with April West Texas Intermediate crude futures

over $109 a barrel and May Brent crude
the global benchmark, hovering atop $111 a barrel.

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