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European markets fluctuate amid Ukraine-Russia tensions

LONDON — European stocks were choppy on Thursday as tensions remained high over the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 was down 0.6% by mid-morning, having gained around 0.5% at the open. Utilities fell 2.4% to lead losses while basic resources jumped 3% as raw material prices rose.

The indecisive trade for European stocks comes amid heightened fears for Ukraine’s future with more reports of explosions in the capital Kyiv overnight.

Earlier this week a huge column of Russian military vehicles was making its way towards the capital prompting concerns that Russia would soon launch a large-scale attack on the city.

Ukraine’s second biggest city, Kharkiv, suffered heavy bombardment on Wednesday, while Kherson’s mayor said Russian forces have seized control of the key port city in southern Ukraine. If confirmed, it marks a military victory for Russia.

Russia’s week-long invasion was denounced by the United Nations in a historic vote and dozens of countries referred Moscow to be probed for potential war crimes.

Shares in Asia-Pacific were largely higher in Thursday trade after U.S. stocks bounced back on Wednesday, although U.S. stock index futures were flat during overnight trading.

Oil prices, however, continued to move higher following a price surge in recent days. In the morning of Asia trading hours, international benchmark Brent crude futures gained 2.2% to $115.40 per barrel by mid-morning in Europe, after earlier rising as high as $118.22 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also climbed 2.4% to $113.23 per barrel.

OPEC and its allies decided Wednesday to hold production steady despite the recent dramatic spike in oil prices.

Earnings came from Merck, Telecom Italia, Prudential and Aviva. Data releases include the euro zone unemployment rate and producer prices for January.

Anglo-Swiss miner Glencore and Austrian retail bank Erste Group both climbed more than 6% by mid-morning to lead the Stoxx 600.

At the bottom of the European blue chip index, Anglo-Russian miner Polymetal International continued to crash due to its Russian exposure, shedding more than 28%.

Societe Generale said Thursday it would be able to cope it its Russian business was to be stripped away. The French lender said its exposure in Russia totaled 18 billion euros ($19.97 billion). Shares were flat by mid-morning.

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— CNBC’s Eustance Huang contributed to this market report.

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