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BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets sank Friday after some European countries tightened curbs on travel and business following a surge in coronavirus infections and South Africa reported a new variant.

Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney declined. U.S. markets were closed Thursday for a holiday.

Austria imposed a nationwide 10-day lockdown after its daily virus deaths tripled, while Italy imposed curbs on activity by unvaccinated people.

The U.S. government advised Americans to avoid Germany and Denmark. Scientists in South Africa said a new variant was spreading among young people in its most populous province.

“Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.5% to 3,566.18 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo plunged by an unusually wide 2.6% margin to 28,746.20. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong tumbled 2.1% to 24,213.55.

The Kospi in Seoul lost 1.3% to 2,941.81 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 fell 1.7% to 7,282.50.

India’s Sensex opened down 1.8% at 57,752.68. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets also declined.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 closed up 0.2% on Wednesday. U.S. markets are due to reopen Friday for a shortened trading session.

Investors already were more cautious after Federal Reserve officials said in notes from their October meeting released this week they foresaw the possibility of responding to higher inflation by raising rates sooner than previously planned.

Financial markets had been encouraged by strong U.S. corporate earnings and signs the global economy was rebounding from last year’s history-making decline in activity due to the pandemic. Stock prices have been boosted by easy credit and other measures rolled out by the Fed and other central banks.

Investors worry central bankers might feel pressure to withdraw stimulus earlier than planned due to stronger-than-expected inflation. The Fed said earlier it foresaw keeping rates low until late next year.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude fell $2.22 to $76.17 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, shed $1.84 to $79.08 per barrel in London.

The dollar fell to 114.74 yen from Thursday’s 115.36 yen. The euro held stead at $1.1221.

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News Source: wtop.com

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US WILL send troops to eastern Europe if Putin invades Ukraine as satellite pics show Russian forces gathering at border

THE Biden administration won’t rule out sending US troops to Ukraine after new satellite pictures showed Russian forces gathering at the border.

The photos show ground forces equipment being deployed in western Russia and Crimea as well as troop buildup.

4President Biden hasn't ruled out the possibility of sending US forces to UkraineCredit: Getty 4New satellite images show ground forces equipment being deployed in western Russia and Crimea as well as troop buildupCredit: Getty

Hours after the pictures were released, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked if Americans should be prepared for the likelihood of US forces on the ground if Russia chooses to invade.

“I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s conversations with our transatlantic partners,” Psaki said.

Psaki added that a list of who will be participating in the President’s call will be provided as soon as scheduling details are finalized.

The participants include French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Ministers Mario Draghi and Boris Johnson of Italy and the United Kingdom respectively.

“But I would say that our objective here is conveying diplomatically that this is the moment for Russia to pull back their military buildup at the border,” Psaki added.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby echoed Psaki’s words about ruling out dispatching US forces to Eastern Europe.

“I’m not going to get ahead of decisions one way or another that the administration may or may not make here,” he said. 

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“As you know, President Biden will be calling and talking to President Vladimir Putin tomorrow. I think we need to let that conversation happen.”

Kirby added that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was being kept “keenly and closely informed” about the conversation.

US military advisers have been previously sent to Ukraine on a “rotational” basis, said Kirby, but he declined to say how many were currently in the country.

BIDEN SPEAKS WITH PUTIN

Psaki said Saturday that Biden and Putin would discuss “US concerns with Russian military activities on the border with Ukraine and reaffirm the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

Biden told reporters on Friday that he was putting together “the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives” to make it difficult for Putin to do “what people are worried he may do.”

The president said the US has been aware of Russia’s actions “for a long time” and expects that he is going to have “a long discussion with Putin.”

Russian has been dispatching troops to Ukraine’s border for months, which has many worrying about a possible invasion.

The Kremlin has denied any invasion plans but US Secretary of State Antony Blinken believes it’s a strong possibility. 

“We don’t know whether President Putin has made the decision to invade. We do know that he is putting in place the capacity to do so in short order should he so decide,” Blinken said last week.

“Should Russia follow the path of confrontation, when it comes to Ukraine, we’ve made it clear that we will respond resolutely.”

OTHER COUNTRIES WEIGH IN

The White House sent the readout of President Biden’s call with European allies.

“The leaders discussed their shared concern about the Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders and Russia’s increasingly harsh rhetoric,” the statement read.

“They called on Russia to de-escalate tensions and agreed that diplomacy, especially through the Normandy Format, is the only way to resolve the conflict in the Donbas through the implementation of the Minsk Agreements.

“The leaders underscored their support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. They agreed that their teams will stay in close touch, including consultation with NATO allies and EU partners, on a coordinated and comprehensive approach.”

4Biden and Putin will be in talks about Russia's military actionsCredit: Getty 4Biden said that he was putting together 'the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives”' to make it difficult for Putin to do 'what people are worried he may do'Credit: Getty Russia sends 700 expert snipers to Ukraine border as Putin warns Nato back off or face a ‘nightmare’ sparking WW3 fears
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