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US markets poised for strong gains as investors eye big tech

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street pointed toward strong gains hours before trading opened Thursday with quarterly earnings reports from American tech heavyweights on tap.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrials rose 0.9% while the same for the S&P jumped 1.6%. Twitter, Apple and Amazon will report their results on Thursday, following strong results from Microsoft and Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, the previous day.

Oil prices dipped as European countries united in condemning a decision by Russia to cut natural gas shipments to Poland and Bulgaria as a failed attempt to divide the West in its support for Ukraine.

Russia’s escalation in the economic standoff of sanctions and countersanctions could force targeted countries to ration gas, dealing a fresh blow to economies strapped by rising prices.

Natural gas prices surged as much as 24% Wednesday in Europe and the euro weakened after Russia said it would cut off supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. Natural gas and oil prices already were rising as the pandemic eased and demand increased, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has added to price increases.

Stock markets appeared to shrug off those concerns Thursday.

Germany’s DAX jumped 1.6% while the CAC 40 in Paris added 1.7%. Britain’s FTSE surged 1% to 7,484.85.

U.S. benchmark crude oil slipped 46 cents to $101.56 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 32 cents on Wednesday to $102.02 per barrel.

Brent crude, the standard for pricing international oil, shed 58 cents to $104.37 per barrel.

Shares advanced in Asia after the Bank of Japan kept its near-zero interest rate stance unchanged.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.8% to 26,847.90 on stronger-than-expected retail sales data. However, the Japanese central bank downgraded its outlook for the world’s third-largest economy to take into account rising energy costs and uncertainties raised by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The dollar rose to 130.67 Japanese yen from 128.43 yen late Wednesday. It started the year at about 115 yen and has risen much faster than earlier estimates on expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will aggressively raise interest rates to counter surging inflation. That has prompted investors to sell yen to seek higher returns in dollar-denominated assets.

The euro slipped to $1.0507 from $1.0560.

Some Japanese officials have expressed concern over the yen’s weakness at a time when costs for imported oil, gas and other commodities are soaring. But the Bank of Japan has indicated it intends to keep lending conditions ultra-lax to help support the sluggish economy.

Chinese benchmarks were higher amid a flurry of official commentary highlighting the ruling Communist Party’s efforts to counter the impact of pandemic shutdowns in many cities.

The Shanghai Composite index gained 0.6% to 2,975.48 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 1.5% to 20,238.22.

Strict COVID-19 lockdown measures in China have added to concerns about slowing growth, disrupting the flow of industrial goods and other business activity in Shanghai, home of the world’s busiest port, and other industrial cities.

Beijing has been conducting mass testing this week as it decides on what degree of controls to impose in the capital.

Elsewhere, the Kospi in Seoul added 1.1% to 2,667.49. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 surged 1.3% to 7,356.90.

Article Topic Follows: AP National Business

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