Oil drops more than 3% in mixed Asia-Pacific trading day

SINGAPORE — Stocks in Asia-Pacific were mixed on Thursday morning as oil prices fell sharply.

In the morning of Asian trading hours, international benchmark Brent futures fell 3.92% to $109 a barrel. U.S. crude futures fell 4.62% to $102.84 a barrel.

US President Joe Biden’s administration is considering a plan to release 1 million barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for about six months, a source told NBC News. Global oil prices have soared in volatile trade since Russia invaded Ukraine more than a month ago.

In broader Asia-Pacific markets, mainland China shares fell in morning trade, with the Shanghai composite losing 0.26% while the Shenzhen component slipping 0.652%.

Chinese factory activity declined in March, official data showed Thursday. The country’s official Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for March came in at 49.5, down from February’s reading of 50.2.

The 50 point mark in the PMI readings separates growth from contraction. PMI readings are sequential and represent month-to-month expansion or contraction.

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MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan was trading down around 0.15%.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.767 as it struggles to recover from falling from levels above 99 earlier in the week.

The Japanese yen was trading at 122.23 to the dollar, still stronger than levels above 124 seen against the greenback earlier this week. The Australian dollar was at $0.7505, having largely traded in a range between $0.747 and $0.753 so far this week.

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