The big economic question of the day is on sanctions: What could sanctions mean for the global economy already in a tenuous position? Europe especially is in a bind, given its deep economic ties to neighboring Russia. At stake is the health of a global economy that is already seeing the highest inflation in decades and steepening energy costs. As a result, governments are carefully weighing geopolitical concerns with maintaining the world economy. After a round of sanctions on Tuesday amid the leadup to the invasion, President Joe Biden announced a new set of sanctions on Thursday to block the assets of four Russian banks, restrict the release of goods through export control, and target major Russian business leaders with political influence. The president has yet to invoke the stiffest sanctions, which could include cutting off Russia's access to the SWIFT payment system for the transferring of funds between global banking institutions.
The market is taking wild swings today, and numbers are likely to change rapidly throughout the day. The Dow Jones Industrial had entered a bear market, dropping as much as 800 points at its low, before recovering some losses throughout the day like the S&P 500, which had sunk further into correction territory before flipping to a modest gain. While tech stocks are once again taking the brunt of the losses, the tech-heavy Nasdaq also turned around following Biden's announced sanctions against Russia that fell short of what some experts had predicted might have been coming.
PANIC AT THE PUMP
Energy prices are the center of the market's woes. Oil prices were rising prior to the invasion but quickly surged once Russian forces began to move into Ukraine. Brent crude hit $105 per barrel for the first time since August 2014 and is hovering near the $100 mark, along with an 8 percent rise in global energy markets. With Russia being a global leader in oil and gas supply, Americans could soon feel the pressure at the pump. Meanwhile, energy expert Bob McNally said the Biden administration is unlikely to sanction Russia's natural gas and oil sectors out of fear it will negatively impact consumers. So far, the president hasn't targeted energy production specifically.
COMMODITY PRICES SURGE
In addition to oil and gas, other commodities are getting supercharged by the crisis. As governments weigh sanctions on Russia, a major producer country, the possibility of disrupted global trade flows is putting pressure on metals, industrial inputs, and agricultural products. Aluminum was up 4 percent on the London Metal Exchange; zinc was up 2.5 percent, and palladium (which is used in catalytic converters and other key components) was up 5.5 percent. Wheat, a major export for both Russia and Ukraine, was up nearly 6 percent at one point, and other staples such as palm oil and corn were up around 5 percent. Finally, precious metals, which tend to shoot up during economic uncertainty, saw bumps today: Gold and silver were each up a percent.
TREASURY YIELDS FALL
U.S. Treasury yields, which move inversely with prices, dropped on Thursday as equities plummeted and investors fled en masse to safe assets. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell more than 8 basis points, while the 30-year T-bill dropped nearly 7 basis points. The 2-year Treasury yield, meanwhile, dropped a whopping 11 basis points.
RUSSIAN STOCK MARKET CRUMBLES
As bad as Wall Street has it today, Russia's stock market is feeling even more pain. Russian assets collapsed on Thursday as attacks began in Ukraine, erasing as much as $259 billion in value. In addition, the ruble fell 9 percent against the dollar, even as the Russian central bank tapped into a $600 billion-plus war chest designed to prop up the country during a crisis. Since its 2014 annexation of Crimea, Russia has taken steps to lessen its economic reliance on Western powers. Mostly this has meant building up a massive cache of foreign reserves. With sanctions looming, this crisis could be the first major test of whether this strategy pays off.
CHINA CHIMES IN
As Western rhetoric toward Russia escalates, China is calling for talks to resolve the crisis. Economic ties between the two countries have thickened in recent years, with Russia serving as a crucial energy provider for China amid its rapid expansion. The country also approved imports of Russian wheat, suggesting that it won't join the U.S. and European nations in cutting off the country economically. Beijing, meanwhile, blamed NATO and the U.S. for the conflict.
Updated on February 24, 2022, at 3:32 p.m. ET with details of new sanctions, market numbers, and no specific sanctions on energy production.