The news from US intelligence that the Russian aggression on Ukraine was a done deal spooked markets on Friday. While Russia denied it, the situation doesn't seem to be getting any better. How will markets react to further developments?
Prepare for various options
Markets are reacting and investors should prepare for potentially turbulent times. This is why we present 3 potential scenarios of the Ukrainian conflict and highlight key markets that may be affected.
Watch these markets:
Stocks – Russian banks, RTS and… Nasdaq
VTB and Sberbank – the names of these institutions are nearly synonymous with sanctions on Russia. Little wonder these stocks are among top choices on the equity side. Investors may also focus on the diversified RTS Index where Sberbank has 14% share – the index has plenty of energy stocks as well and is down 30% from late 2021 highs. A less obvious choice is Nasdaq (US100). Why would US tech stocks react to the conflict in Europe? Well, since this market has its own share of problems (mainly Fed tightening), other bad news could impact investor sentiment even further.
Commodities – Oil, Gold, Platinum, Palladium and Wheat
Russia is the second largest exporter of Oil and the commodity is also a substitute for natural gas which has already been in tight supply in Europe. Gold has traditionally been a "top pick”for times of geopolitical uncertainty but we'd like to turn your attention to Palladium and Platinum – these are also precious metals but Russia is way more important here being the number 1 and 2 exporter respectively. Finally, both Russia and Ukraine are important producers of Wheat.
FX – focus on USDRUB
FX is fairly obvious – any conflict is detrimental for the Russian ruble even despite high oil prices and significant interest rate increases in Russia. On the other hand, USD attracts liquidity in times of distress so USDRUB could be the choice for investors here.
3 scenarios – invasion, tension and compromise
The worst case scenario is the one of invasion – the one already hinted at by the US intelligence. Invasion means sanctions but actually the lack of sanctions is the key to reactions here (as the largest guns – like cutting off Russia from SWIFT – are supposedly off the table). Markets know that if Russia invades, forcing it to withdraw will be costly and that will feed uncertainty and fear. Critically negative for Russian stocks, negative for global stocks, positive for oil and precious metals and USDRUB.
The most likely scenario could be the one of prolonged tension – Moscow can pose threats for as long as it achieves certain results (there’s a talk of autonomy or even referendums in Eastern parts of Ukraine). While politically complicated, this scenario can actually be a relief for the markets. For as long as invasion risk declines, this scenario is positive for stocks while being negative for oil, precious metals and USDRUB.
Finally a scenario most would prefer – there's a sound compromise and Russian troops are ordered away from the Ukrainian border. This would be extremely positive for stocks (especially Russian banks and the Russian index) while negative for oil, precious metals and USDRUB. Unfortunately, this scenario also seems to be the least likely.