Oil prices jump, stocks mixed with spotlight on surging inflation

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Mar 23 2022 09:15 PM | Updated as of Mar 24 2022 08:11 AM

LONDON - Oil prices rallied Wednesday, adding to soaring inflation concerns, while stock markets diverged.

Crude futures jumped 2.5 percent with Brent North Sea headed towards $120 per barrel.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak on Wednesday warned that a ban on Russian oil and gas imports over the Ukraine war would drive the world's energy markets to a "collapse". 

"It is absolutely obvious that without Russian hydrocarbons, if sanctions are introduced, there will be a collapse of the oil and gas markets," Novak told Russia's lower house State Duma as reported by Russian news agencies.

"The rise in energy prices may be unpredictable," Novak added. 

On stock markets, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index was up after official data showed UK annual inflation had surged to 6.2 percent last month, the highest level in 30 years. 

While inflation increases company costs it can boost their revenues by sizeable amounts. 

The British data were published ahead of a UK budget update Wednesday that could ease a cost-of-living crisis for millions of Britons as inflation rockets worldwide largely owing to soaring energy prices. 

"Today's data confirm a worsening squeeze on consumer incomes," said Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG UK.

"These price rises were dominated by increases in energy, and we expect further rises this year as global energy, food, and other commodities markets are impacted by Russia's invasion of Ukraine."

Elsewhere, eurozone stock markets fell Wednesday after Asia's top indices closed higher.

Wall Street had rallied Tuesday on optimism that the Federal Reserve's plan to hike interest rates would help to bring inflation under control.

While there remains plenty of concern about the war in Ukraine, analysts said some confidence had seeped back into trading floors as investors bet on consumer resilience and economies continue to reopen.

Federal Reserve boss Jerome Powell this week said that the US central bank was prepared to act more aggressively on lifting borrowing costs should American inflation -- already at a 40-year high -- not fall quickly enough.

Officials lifted US rates last week by a quarter of a point but some have advocated bigger increases, a view Powell suggested he was open to believing that the world's biggest economy was strong enough to withstand such a move.

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