March 16, 2022
“After delegates from Ukraine and Russia met yesterday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia’s demands were becoming ‘more realistic’ and that ‘any war ends with an agreement’.”
Sam Cornford, Partner – Head of Trading
US President Joe Biden has been banned from entering Russia in response to sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine. Mr Biden has not visited Russia since 2011, when he was vice president to Barack Obama. His trip to Moscow included talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Senior White House officials make up the bulk of the 13-name “stop list”, which also features Hillary Clinton. The former presidential candidate visited Russia a handful of times when she was secretary of state but has not been since 2012. Russia’s foreign ministry said it would still maintain official relations with Washington and make high-level contact with those on the list if necessary. The US has itself announced sanctions on 11 Russian defence leaders and signalled that it could levy sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Moscow-allied Belarus.
Boris Johnson began a visit today to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia where he will try to persuade the UK’s Gulf allies to step up oil production and ease pressure on energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia have roiled energy markets, driving crude prices close to $100 a barrel and ratcheting up pressure on OPEC members to raise output. Johnson on Tuesday said his trip to the Middle East is part of a broader effort to wean Europe off Russian energy; the UK plans to phase out imports of Russian oil by year-end, while also looking at reducing gas imports from Russia. Saudi Arabia and the UAE pump more than 13 million barrels of oil a day between them and are both key members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which has resisted calls from the US, Japan and European nations to accelerate production increases. OPEC is in an alliance with Russia that’s known as OPEC+.
Sterling is stronger against the dollar and weaker against the euro this morning. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended his decision to visit Saudi Arabia, where he is seeking increased supplies of oil, saying ties with the country were very important and promising to raise human rights issues. Johnson said the West had made a mistake in allowing itself to become dependent on Russian oil and gas, and that had effectively allowed Putin to hold them to ransom. However, his visit has drawn criticism from lawmakers and human rights campaigners, given that it comes just days after Saudi Arabia executed 81 men, in its biggest mass execution in decades. Asked about criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, Johnson said, “I’ve raised all those issues many, many times over the past … and I’ll raise them all again today.”
The euro is well bid against most major currencies overnight. Russia’s invasion neared the three-week mark and the number of Ukrainians who have left the country amid Europe’s heaviest fighting since the Second World War eclipsed three million. After delegations from Ukraine and Russia met again yesterday via video, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said early today that Russia’s demands were becoming “more realistic”. The two sides were expected to speak again today. “Efforts are still needed, patience is needed,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation. “Any war ends with an agreement.” He appealed for more weapons and more sanctions to punish Russia and repeated his call to “close the skies over Ukraine to Russian missiles and planes”. He said Russian forces on Tuesday had been unable to move deeper into Ukrainian territory but had continued their heavy shelling of cities.
The dollar is weaker than most major currencies in the early morning trade. After Moscow’s military failed to rapidly secure control of key cities including Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, it has resorted to increasingly brutal attacks on civilian targets — and western officials have stepped up warnings that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, might resort to the use of chemical weapons as well. While Biden has warned Russia would pay a “severe price” for any chemical weapons attack in Ukraine, the US and its allies have not detailed how they would react to such a move. NATO officials say they have adopted an approach of “strategic ambiguity”, thereby removing Putin’s ability to select his possible options based on a known response. A collection of well-connected lobbyists and lawyers in Washington have made millions of dollars over the past eight years by working for Russian clients with links to the Kremlin, according to a Financial Times analysis.
Volatility continued to dominate global markets as investors assessed geopolitical developments, with US stocks failing to hold onto gains that reached 1% earlier in the day. Oil briefly tumbled below $100 a barrel after a recent surge that spurred inflation fears. Treasury 10-year yields hit the highest level since 2019. A morning rally in equities driven by hopes of a new round of talks between Russia and Ukraine sputtered, with the S&P 500 falling into a “death cross” – a technical pattern that has at times presaged further weakness. The Nasdaq 100 closed in a bear market for the first time since March 2020 as the tech-heavy gauge extended its slide from a record to more than 20% amid higher bond rates. Apple Inc. slumped after one of its suppliers halted operations at its Shenzhen sites following a Chinese government-imposed lockdown. A gauge of the Asian nation’s stocks listed in the US sank 12%.
Main Economic Data/Central Banks/Government (All Times CET)
9:00 a.m.: Spain Jan. house transactions
10:00 a.m.: Italy Feb. CPI
10:15 a.m.: Denmark to sell bonds
11:00 a.m.: Norway to sell bonds
11:30 a.m.: Germany to sell bonds
12:00 p.m.: Portugal Feb. PPI
12:00 p.m.: Riksbank’s Ingves speaks
2:00 p.m.: Poland Jan. current account
3:30 p.m.: EIA US oil inventories
5:00 p.m.: Russia March 11 CPI
7:00 p.m.: FOMC concludes two-day meeting
Finnish PM Marin meets German Chancellor Scholz in Berlin
Ukraine’s Zelenskiy delivers virtual address to US Congress
IEA’s monthly oil market report
Earnings include Inditex, E.ON, CK Infrastructure
OMV capital markets day