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RIYADH: Asian shares fell on Thursday as the sell-off in US Treasuries paused and oil prices rose.
Investors and traders also weighed the latest developments in the Ukraine war and hawkish comments from US Federal Reserve officials, adding to the cautious sentiment.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 0.6 percent. Japan’s Nikkei fell by more than 1 percent on Thursday morning, after touching a two-month high in the previous session.
China’s markets opened lower, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index down 0.9 percent and the mainland’s blue-chip index off 0.7 percent. Shares of Tencent Holdings dropped 4.6 percent after it posted its slowest-ever sales rise.
Slight change in gold prices
Gold prices witnessed only a slight change on Thursday as the dollar gained and yields hovered near multi-year peaks, offsetting support from an escalation in the Ukraine crisis.
Spot gold changed little at $1,943.75 per ounce by 0131 GMT from $1,923.47 per ounce by 0311 GMT Wednesday. US gold futures were up 0.4 percent to $1,944.40.
The dollar index gained on Wednesday, making gold less attractive for other currency holders, as oil prices shot higher again with US President Joe Biden and other European leaders set to impose fresh sanctions against Russia.
On the other hand, spot silver was up 0.1 percent to $25.08 per ounce, while platinum shed 0.3 percent to $1,016.99.
Soybean loses steam
Chicago soybean futures slid on Thursday after a three-day run of gains driven by the likelihood of strong demand for US supplies as adverse weather hits production in South America.
The most-active soybean contract on the Chicago Board of Trade lost 0.1 percent to $17.16-3/4 a bushel, as of 0238 GMT. Corn fell 0.4 percent to $7.55 a bushel, while wheat gained 0.1 percent to $11.06-1/4 a bushel.
EU rushes to aid farmers
The European Union will distribute 500 million euros ($550 million) to help farmers and allow them to grow crops on fallow land to mitigate food price spikes and potential shortages resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Published on Wednesday, the proposals by the EU’s executive European Commission also include assistance to Ukraine to help its farmers sow corn and sunflower seeds and tend to wheat.
Ukraine is a top global player in sunflower oil, with over 50 percent of world trade, and holds significant shares for wheat, barley, and maize, which has already led to surges in prices and concerns about shortages.
The EU executive stressed on Wednesday that there was no immediate threat to food security in the 27-nation bloc given it is a net exporter of cereals.
However, recognizing farmers will face higher fuel and feed prices, the EU will distribute 500 million euros to aid farmers hardest hit by the crisis, particularly if they are engaged in more environmentally friendly production.
The Brussels-based Commission will also let farmers temporarily grow crops on the almost 6 percent of EU agricultural land that is set aside to boost biodiversity.
(With inputs from Reuters)
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