Russia’s Ukraine conflict, big inflation report will keep the stock market volatile in coming week
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will continue to be a major focus, as wary investors watch fresh inflation data and the rising price of oil in the week ahead.
Stocks in the past week sold off in volatile trading, as oil rose more than 20% and a whole host of other commodities rose on supply worries. Investors sought safety in bonds, driving prices higher and the 10-year Treasury yield to 1.72% Friday. The dollar rallied, pushing the dollar index up 2% on the week.
“We just don’t know what can happen over the weekend. It looks like the Russians are amping themselves up and they’re getting more aggressive,” said Jim Caron, Morgan Stanley Investment Management head of macro strategies for global fixed income.
“If nothing happens over the weekend, or if there’s some peace talks coming, then the 10-year note yield could go up 10 to 15 basis points. It could have that swing,” said Caron. Yields move opposite price. (1 basis point equals 0.01%.)
The Federal Reserve will also be top of mind, as investors focus on its pending interest rate hike on March 16. But Fed officials will not be making public addresses in the quiet period leading up to their meeting.
The economic calendar is relatively light in the coming week, with the exception of Thursday’s report of February’s consumer price index.
According to Dow Jones, economists expect headline inflation to rise to 7.8% year-over-year, from 7.5% in January, the highest since 1982. Headline inflation includes food and energy prices.
“The risk is to the upside. It will be a shocker if we get an 8% handle,” said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex.
“The major averages are all in a downtrend here. They seem to rally and then run out of steam,” said Paul Hickey, co-founder of Bespoke. “Until you get some kind of break of that, you want to be a little cautious. It’s definitely concerning, all this stuff.”
Hickey said that the market is behaving similarly as it did in other conflicts.
“In the short run, there’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Hickey “I think the playbook is similar. You tend to see a lot of sloshing around – big swings up and down — and then eventually things start to stabilize a few months later…The question is where does this one go?”
Following a week of gains, oil jumped sharply again Friday, with West Texas Intermediate rising above $115 for the first time since 2008. WTI rose 7.4% Friday and was up 26% for the week, to settle at $115.68. Russia’s battle for control of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant early Friday spooked investors.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has stirred up more fear of inflation, and economists are already raising their inflation forecasts, due to rising oil prices. The whole commodities complex has shifted higher, since Russia is such a key producer of wheat, palladium, aluminum and other commodities.
Rising oil prices can be a worry since they can generate one of the biggest hits to inflation and do so quickly.
Russia is unique in that it is a very large commodity exporter and has the ability to impact many markets. It is one of the world’s largest exporters of crude and natural gas, with its primary customer Europe. It is the largest exporter of both palladium and wheat.
The jump in oil has already been hitting U.S. consumers at the pump. Gasoline prices were $3.83 per gallon of unleaded Friday, up 11 cents in just a day and 26 cents in a week, according to AAA.
“The national average could get to $4 a gallon next week,” said John Kilduff, partner with Again Capital.
In the oil market, Kilduff said there was brisk buying Friday. “There’s still room to grind higher, as we continue to price in the loss of Russian crude oil,” he said.
The U.S. and its allies did not sanction Russian energy, but the sanctions did inhibit buyers, banks and shippers who fear running afoul of sanctions on the Russian financial system.
“It’s pretty clear nobody wanted to be short going into the weekend,” said Kilduff. “There’s still room to grind higher as we continue to price in the loss of Russian crude oil.”
Oil traders are also watching to see if Iran is able to strike a deal that would allow it sell its oil on the market, in exchange for an end to its nuclear programs. It could then bring 1 million barrels back on to the market, but analysts say there will still be a shortfall.