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Risk sentiment resilient in face of Russia mutiny: markets wrap

Risk sentiment resilient in face of Russia mutiny: markets wrap
A member of the National Liberation Movement (NLM) holds a flag with a portrait of Russian President Putin reading 'For Motherland, For Sovereignty, For Putin' during a single picket in support of the Russian president in front of the monument to Marshal Zhukov on Manezhnaya Square, outside the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, 25 June 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Maxim Shipenkov)

From oil and gold to stocks and currencies, global markets were a picture of relative calm on Monday in the wake of a geopolitical shock that challenged Vladimir Putin’s rule in Russia.

Oil was steady after its near 4% slide last week, US and European equity futures ticked higher and Asian shares were mixed as bourses in mainland China opened after a long weekend amid concern over the nation’s economic recovery. A gauge of dollar strength declined 0.2% while most major currencies traded within narrow ranges versus the greenback. Gold rose slightly, with little sign of aggressive buying for its haven qualities.

While events in Russia had the potential to spur investors into selling riskier assets, initial moves were modest and reflected the impact of a deal that was brokered to halt the Wagner mercenary group’s advance toward Moscow. The agreement includes dropping criminal mutiny charges against Yevgeny Prigozhin and his fighters. 

The situation casts a shadow over the sustainability of the Russian regime, which may start to present problems for markets, according to Adrian Zuercher, head of global asset allocation at UBS Global Wealth Management. “It’s probably another element that creates uncertainty, volatility,” he said on Bloomberg Television. “But we can see market reaction is very muted so far.”

Gas traders were bracing for more market turbulence given the risks to supply from Russia, with European gas already seeing the highest volatility since the invasion of Ukraine.

Shares of Russian aluminum producer United Co. Rusal International PJSC, which offers some insight into appetite for the nation’s assets via Hong Kong-traded securities, fell as much as 2.9%. The stock has slumped this year amid trading volumes that have fallen precipitously for the company in Hong Kong.

Yet in broad terms, aside from commodities trades, Russia has largely become cut off from global financial markets due to sanctions imposed since the invasion, thus limiting the impact on Monday.

Stocks traded higher in Japan, South Korea while those in Hong Kong fluctuated and benchmarks in mainland China, Australia and New Zealand fell.

Futures for the S&P 500 rose around 0.3%, recovering some of the lost ground that saw US stocks notch their worst week since March. Anxiety has been rising in equity markets that central banks will have to ratchet interest rates higher to tamp down inflation, and in the process push the economy into reverse. 

Treasury yields were little changed on Monday. Bonds rallied in Australia and New Zealand, echoing the moves in Treasuries Friday, when US purchasing managers index data showed a decline to lowest level since December.

The yen strengthened after Japan’s top currency official said he wouldn’t rule out any options to handle currency matters appropriately. The yen last week depreciated to the weakest since November after the softer-than-expected PMI data in both Europe and the US fanned fears the global economy may be succumbing to pressure from higher interest rates.

The offshore yuan fluctuated despite China setting its daily reference rate for the currency at a stronger-than-expected level to slow its slide.

Meanwhile, the S&P 500 Index ended the shortened holiday week 1.4% lower while the Nasdaq 100 benchmark fell 1.3% as investors took profits from the year’s winning technology names. The second-quarter stock rally — fueled by the frenzy for growth-oriented artificial intelligence stocks — is fraying under the threat of more rate hikes and fears that the full economic impact of aggressive central bank policy has yet to be felt. 

Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell damped the mood last week when he said the US may need one or two more rate increases in 2023. Other Fed commentators pushed back against investor hopes for a rate cut this year.

Powell has done a good job of reconnecting the bond market with the Fed’s outlook, which is no cuts in the intermediate future, according to Walter Todd, president and chief investment officer at Greenwood Capital. “It’s going to be more data dependent as the Fed will kind of push around the bond market and the stock market going forward,” he said on Bloomberg Radio.


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