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Stock markets sink as Russia invades Ukraine

The invasion of Ukraine: A demonstrator displays a placard during a protest against Russia's attack on Ukraine, outside the Dutch parliament in The Hague, Netherlands, on 24 February. Photo: Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters
The invasion of Ukraine: A demonstrator displays a placard during a protest against Russia's attack on Ukraine, outside the Dutch parliament in The Hague, Netherlands, on 24 February. Photo: Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters

European stock markets tumbled into a sea of red on Thursday after Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In London, the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) fell 3.8% on the day, while the French CAC (^FCHI) also tumbled 3.8% and the DAX (^GDAXI) was 4% lower in Germany.

Reports have detailed multiple attacks in major cities in Ukraine, including Kyiv, after Russia announced a "special military operation". The move could be the largest conflict in Europe since the Second World War.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “It’s probably not hyperbole to say that Europe is now at its most dangerous juncture since World War Two.”

Read more: How Russia's war on Ukraine is impacting stock prices

The decline for London's benchmark index comes as bad news for the millions of savers and investors who have money in UK equities, however, it is by no means one of the worst days in history for the UK market. It ranked number 186 in terms of the most severe single day falls since records began.

Meanwhile, oil broke past the $100 (£74.78) milestone on the back of the news, with Brent crude (BZ=F) soaring 8.4% to $105 a barrel, its highest since 2014, while US light crude (CL=F) soared to $99.44 a barrel, up 8%.

Read more: What is the Swift payment system the UK wants Russia thrown out from?

Gold (GC=F) and other precious metal prices including palladium, platinum and nickel, have jumped. Spot gold has gained more than 3% today to $1,969 an ounce, its highest levels in a year.

European stock markets slumped on Thursday. Tanks of Ukrainian forces move following Russia's military operation in Ukraine
Ukrainian forces move in response to Russia's invasion. Photo: Wolfgang Schwan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“Markets woke up in panic mode as investors reacted to the news overnight of Russia's invasion of Ukraine," Walid Koudmani, chief market analyst at financial brokerage XTB, said. "We have seen clients sell out of risky asset classes such as stocks and buy gold and the US dollar which are seen as safer investments at times of uncertainty.

"Investors hate uncertainty and whilst it's inevitable that the west will respond to Russia's aggression, what's unclear right now is by what severity and how the situation could escalate further. As a result, investors are seeking asset protection and don't want to take on any risk to their portfolios."

Read more: What Ukraine invasion means for consumer prices in the UK

Across the pond, Wall Street was mixed with the S&P 500 (^GSPC) down 0.7% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq (^IXIC) climbing 0.3% higher after a poor start. The Dow Jones (^DJI) edged 0.7% lower at the time of the European close.

The weak open in the US has now left the Dow Jones down by 11% in the year to date, the S&P 500 by 13.4% and the Nasdaq by 19%.

US president Joe Biden said that the United States and its allies will impose “severe sanctions” on Russia on the back of the invasion news. He will meet with his counterparts from the G7 allies to map out more severe measures against Russia.

Read more: The Russian banks and billionaires targeted by UK sanctions

Meanwhile, the US dollar also rose sharply while government bond yields have dropped as investors move into haven trades.

Asian stock markets plunged overnight with the Nikkei (^N225) falling 1.8% in Japan, while the Hang Seng (^HSI) sank 3.2% in Hong Kong and the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) dipped 1.7%.

Watch: Russia's Putin launches invasion of Ukraine