Last week, Russia invaded Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision ignited the biggest military conflict in Europe since World War II. The war is already exacting a terrible human toll. It has also disrupted global markets and raised questions about the potential economic impact on Russia, Ukraine and the rest of the world.
The Russia Trading System (RTS) Index, which is a gauge of the Russian stock market, dropped 38 percent early last week, although “financial markets partially recovered during Friday’s session…as traders assessed a wave of sanctions imposed by western powers that spared the country’s energy sector on which other parts of Europe are strongly dependent,” reported Robin Wigglesworth and colleagues at Financial Times (FT).
Major stock indices in the United States, Europe and Asia declined sharply at the start of last week, too. Some U.S. stock indices experienced corrections, meaning they moved 10 percent lower than recent highs. While corrections are unpleasant, they’re not uncommon and they can help wring excess from frothy markets, reported Stan Choe of Associated Press (AP).
Last week’s drop was jolting, but major U.S. indices recovered to finish the week higher. European and Asian indices recovered some losses but finished the week lower. The RTS ended the week significantly below where it started.
Will the Federal Reserve Change Course? One reason for the quick recovery in U.S. markets may have been related to the Federal Reserve. Avi Salzman of Barron’s wrote that some investors “are clearly betting that the Federal Reserve will slow its tightening in response, giving riskier assets a chance to rise more.”
Not everyone shares that perspective. Colby Smith and Caitlin Gilbert of FT reported, “Despite the sharp escalation in geopolitical tensions, market expectations for the future path of Fed policy have not wavered significantly, with six quarter-point rate rises still penciled in for this year. While several Fed officials have since acknowledged potential economic costs tied to Russia’s attacks, they appear steadfast in their plans to withdraw monetary support.”
Will China Follow Russia’s Example?
Governments and investors are also keeping an eye on China. The world’s response to Russia, “may affect how Chinese President Xi Jinping does or doesn’t proceed with reclaiming Taiwan, which is much more critical to the global supply chain and thus the U.S. economy and financial markets,” wrote Lisa Beilfuss of Barron’s. “Taiwan’s domination of semiconductor manufacturing is particularly notable at a time when the global chip shortage is one factor behind the everything shortage.”
Beijing has long held that democratically governed Taiwan is part of China, reported Yimou Lee and colleagues at Reuters.
Your Portfolio and Your Financial Goals
The war in Europe will have far-reaching consequences, many of which remain unclear at this point. As a result, markets are likely to remain volatile. While current market conditions may be nerve-wracking for investors, history has shown that selling out of fear, while markets are down, is a poor way to grow assets.
A better choice is to focus on whether your portfolio aligns with your financial goals. If last week’s gut check left you with concerns about risk, give us a call. We’re happy to review your portfolio with you and see whether changes are needed.