U.S. stocks futures wavered, while oil prices jumped, as Russia pounded Ukrainian cities and investors awaited testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman
and a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies.
Futures for the S&P 500 crept up 0.1% Wednesday, a day after the benchmark index fell 1.6%. Contracts for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2% and those for the technology-focused Nasdaq-100 ticked up 0.1%.
In premarket trading, shares of
rose 2.3% after the energy major said it was halting operations at a multibillion-dollar oil-and-gas project in Russia.
raised its earnings forecast for the year, lifting shares 4% ahead of the bell.
In Europe, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 hovered near the flatline.
Stocks have been volatile in recent weeks. Investors are responding to fast-moving developments on the Ukrainian warfield, a volley of sanctions launched by the West on Moscow and a succession of major companies cutting ties with Russia. By boosting energy prices, the conflict has added to uncertainty regarding the likely rise in interest rates this year.
Energy markets extended their rapid advance Wednesday. Crude prices surged over $110 a barrel for the first time since 2014 as refiners refused to buy Russian oil, taking a bite out of global energy supplies. Brent-crude futures, the international benchmark, rose 5.8% to $111.03 a barrel, extending their advance so far this year to 43%.
Prices leapt in other pockets of the energy market tied to Russia. European natural-gas prices jumped 30%. So far there has been minimal disruption to the pipeline system in Ukraine, through which about a third of Russian gas exports to Europe flow, according to analysts.
OPEC and its Russia-led allies are due to meet Wednesday. Analysts expect them to proceed with a plan to raise production by 400,0000 barrels a day, though many members of the cartel are struggling to meet their quotas.
Rising oil prices pose a headache for central banks already dealing with the fastest inflation rates in decades. Mr. Powell will begin the first of two days of testimony on monetary policy and the economy when he appears before the House Committee on Financial Services at 10 a.m. ET.
Yields on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes edged up to 1.732% before Mr. Powell’s testimony, from 1.708% Tuesday. Yields and bond prices move in opposite directions.
Lawmakers are likely to press Mr. Powell on the pace of rate increases, the outlook for inflation and potential economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Fed is widely expected to raise interest rates at its March 15-16 meeting.
However, traders have dialed back expectations of the number of times the Fed will raise rates this year since Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday. They are pricing in a 6% chance that the bank will raise its benchmark rate to 1.75% or above by the end of the year, according to CME Group, down from 54% a week ago.
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