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    Explained: How Russia-Ukraine conflict could impact global commodity markets

    Explained: How Russia-Ukraine conflict could impact global commodity markets

    Explained: How Russia-Ukraine conflict could impact global commodity markets
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    By CNBCTV18.com  IST (Published)


    The United States has said it would impose sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine. Although Russia has said it does not intend to invade Ukraine, it could hold on to commodity assets, driving up prices. In case of a Russian attack, prices of oil and European gas would spike.

    A potential invasion of Ukraine by Russia could be a major risk-off event and send ripples across a number of markets, causing equities to fall and commodity prices to rise even higher, said reports.

    The US has threatened to impose sanctions on Russia if it moves into Ukraine. Although Russia has said it does not intend to invade Ukraine, it could hold on to commodity assets, driving prices higher. In the advent of a Russian attack, prices of oil would spike and European gas prices would surge.

    Typical conflict responses would come into play if Russia attacks, including moves into long-duration Treasuries and a surge in oil prices and European natural gas, MarketWatch quoted Garrett DeSimone, head of quantitative research at OptionMetrics, as saying. In keeping with past patterns, such moves could, however, be short-lived, he said.

    Past instances

    Although the market witnessed bouts of volatility in 2014 when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, it did not have a lasting impact on the global markets, MarketWatch quoted Steve Barrow, head of G-10 strategy at Standard Bank, as saying in a note.

    However, investors cannot hope for a subdued reaction in case of a full-scale invasion, he said.

    The current situation

    Already by the last week of January, the European market had tumbled 3.8 percent to their lowest levels since October after NATO said it was reinforcing its eastern borders as a Russian invasion of Ukraine seemed likely.

    London’s FTSE 100 index fell 2.6 percent to a one-month low of 7,297 on January 24, clocking its biggest fall in two months. In Frankfurt, the DAX index fell 3.8 percent, while France’s CAC saw shares go down by 4 percent, The Guardian reported.

    In the US, the dollar could strengthen in case of an invasion. Meanwhile, in the past five days, the Russian ruble, off 2.2 percent for the year, has gained 4.1 percent and outperformed other emerging market currencies.

    At present, the markets are not worried as another round of US-Russian talks are likely to take place soon, CNBC quoted Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex, as saying.

    “Markets aren’t as concerned about it as maybe as much as the politicians,” Chandler said.

    Commodity to take a hit

    If Russian tanks cross the border to Ukraine, oil prices will move beyond $100 a barrel, RBC head of global commodities strategy Helima Croft told CNBC.

    The impact will be felt on the European gas and wheat markets, Croft said.

    Russia is the world’s largest wheat exporter. Ukraine and Russia together account for nearly 29 percent of the global wheat export market.

    Apart from this, Russia is also a major exporter of aluminium, palladium, nickel and fertilisers. If the country withholds supply of potash, food prices could soar as crop yields would drop, resulting in more inflation in an already inflationary environment.

    Safe havens

    January was a bad month for the bond markets with inflation soaring to multi-decade highs and Fed warning of an early start to interest rate hikes. Rates of the US 10-year yields were hovering near the 2 percent level in January, while German 10-year yields for the first time since 2019 rose above zero percent.

    However, this could change in the event of an outright Russia-Ukraine conflict, Reuters reported.

    Investors stick to bonds at times of major risk events as they are seen as the safest assets. Despite the threat of rising oil prices and inflation, investors could rush back to bonds even this time should the invasion take place.

    Gold, another safe asset in times of conflict or economic strife, was also at two-month peaks in the end of January.

    Energy as a weapon

    Being one of the largest energy producers of the world, Russia exports about 5 million barrels of oil a day. Europe gets about a third of its natural gas from Russia.

    Gas flows from Russia come to Europe not just through a Nord Stream I pipeline, but also pipelines going through Ukraine. If Ukraine was in conflict with Russia, the energy flows would be halted amid heightened concerns of infrastructure damage.

    Already oil prices have been moving higher because of tight supply and tensions over the conflict.

    On Wednesday, natural gas prices in Europe stood at $25 per million BTU, which is over five times the US price.

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