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European stocks slump as China ready to ‘play a role’ in Ukraine ceasefire

Stocks markets/China comments on Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Stocks were down on Tuesday despite Beijing saying it was 'extremely concerned about the harm to civilians'. This took place after a phone call between Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, above, and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

European stocks tumbled into the red on Tuesday as geopolitical tensions between Russia, Ukraine and the west continued to weigh on investors.

In London, the FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was 1.7% lower by the end of the day, while the CAC (^FCHI) lost 3.2% in Paris, and the Frankfurt DAX (^GDAXI) was 3.1% lower.

It came as China signalled it was ready to play a role in finding a ceasefire in Ukraine. Beijing said it was “extremely concerned about the harm to civilians” after a phone call between Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.

“Ukraine is willing to strengthen communications with China and looks forward to China playing a role in realising a ceasefire,” the Chinese statement said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire warned Moscow in a broadcast: "We will bring about the collapse of the Russian economy.

"The economic and financial balance of power is totally in favour of the European Union which is in the process of discovering its own economic power. We are waging total economic and financial war on Russia."

In response, Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president, wrote on Twitter: "Today, some French minister has said that they declared an economic war on Russia.

"Watch your tongue, gentlemen! And don’t forget that in human history, economic wars quite often turned into real ones."

Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "This is a fast-moving situation and investors should be mindful of potential share price volatility in the short to medium term."

Meanwhile, Mastercard (MA) and Visa (V) have blocked multiple financial institutions from their payment networks after the west rolled out tough new sanctions against Russia.

Watch: How markets are reacting to Russia's latest assault on Ukraine – LIVE

Recent sanctions have caused a spike in cryptocurrencies, particularly in Russia and Ukraine. Bitcoin (BTC-USD) trading in the Russian rouble went into overdrive when the invasion began last Thursday with daily volumes rising around 260% from a day earlier to 1.3bn rouble (£9.2m, $13.5m), according to data from CryptoCompare.

“The direct implication of Russian sanctions was a surge in cryptocurrency prices, and especially bitcoin,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote.

Read more: Bitcoin: Binance and Kraken refuse to ban Russian users

“Bitcoin, which was moving along with the risk assets less than a couple of days ago, is now the asset that Russians and Ukrainians rely on to get their funds out of the traditional system which has become very hostile to them.

“Being able to transact value in bitcoin also helps Russian oligarchs go around the western sanctions. It may also help Russian companies and even the Russian central bank to move funds as these entities can no longer access US dollars, and most of the Russian banks are no longer part of the SWIFT system.”

Ukraine has also been asking for donations in cryptocurrency to help fund its defence.

Watch: Economic sanctions slam Russia’s economy

The Russian rouble regained some footing after it plunged 30% to a record low of 120 per dollar on Monday, while the safe-haven dollar resumed its rise against other major currencies.

The Russian central bank more than doubled its key interest rate to 20%, and also announced a slew of other measures to stem the decline.

Russian stock and derivative markets will remain closed for a second day.

Read more: How economic sanctions work

Across the pond Wall Street was likewise lower, with the S&P 500 (^GSPC) dipping 1.2% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq (^IXIC) falling 1% after the bell. The Dow Jones (^DJI) also edged 1.7% lower as banking stocks declined further.

It comes as the New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq have halted trading of shares in Russia-based companies listed on their exchanges.

The halts were due to regulatory concerns as the exchanges seek more information following economic sanctions imposed on Russia, Reuters reports.

Stocks in Asia enjoyed another broadly positive day, with the Nikkei (^N225) climbing 1.2% in Tokyo while the Hang Seng (^HSI) rose 0.2% in Hong Kong, and the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) was 0.8% higher.

Watch: How does inflation affect interest rates?