Perspectives on Events; Effects on Markets
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Out of crises, opportunities emerge. Advice for all is to limit news watching. However, the courage of the reporters in Ukraine and elsewhere near the battle zone is amazing and heroic. Freedom of the press shows us the good and bad at its best and worst and this is certainly true now. All predictions are that the damage will get worse. Predictions all said that Russia would, in short order, be occupying Kyiv. We can hope that with events moving so fast, somehow this resolves with Russian withdrawal and Ukraine continuing to grow its young, but vibrant democracy.
One fact on the ground is the response of democratic governments around the world. Just Thursday this week, Estee Lauder said it is closing all its stores and halting shipments to Russia. They join many US, European, and Asian corporations who are halting business in Russia. Notably, Visa and Mastercard have halted transactions in Russia. Switzerland, a neutral country for over 100 years has joined the Russian sanctions group.
Effects on the Stock Market
Stock market prices have declined beyond correction territory of 10%, heading to bear market territory. This decline, despite excellent employment numbers released last week, pointed to employment almost returning to pre-pandemic levels. Previous employment reports were revised upward with new jobs. In the meantime, this is the month the Federal Reserve promised to raise interest rates. Will the invasion of Ukraine impact the pace of interest rate increases? Will it continue to impact commodity prices from titanium, oil/gas, nickel, platinum and food/agricultural products and gold? Commodities as an asset class have produced small returns, even negative returns over the last 11 years, but in the last six months their price has increased significantly.
As our crises converge over a very short period of time, markets have been jolted and become very volatile. In stock market terms, volatile means sharp declines in value. Nasdaq is in the bear market territory as defined by a 20% decline from the high. The Dow Jones 30 has been the strongest through this correction (so far) because of the dominance of value stocks vs. growth stocks. After more than 10 years of outperformance of growth stocks over value stocks, tables have turned and value stocks are now outperforming growth stocks. In stock market terms, value stocks are typically larger companies encompassing consumer staples and many provide dividends, while growth companies typically recycle their gains back into their companies in lieu of paying dividends. Important though is the overall significant outperformance of growth of the last 10 years. It is very hard, almost impossible to time these sectors and styles. We take a conservative approach using core, broad-based, diversified indexes to manage our investment portfolios.
The Consumer Price Index for February was released this week showing continued high level increases on both core expenses and in energy and food. These figures do not include the results of the sanctions on Russia and the economic impact of the invasion of Ukraine.
Cryptocurrency in the headlines again this week and this time not for its volatility: https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-to-order-study-of-cryptocurrency-risk-creation-of-u-s-digital-currency-11646823600
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