CryptocurrencyInvestingBanksReal Estate

Stocks bomb lower as jumpy investors brace for possible war in Ukraine

February 14, 2022, 10:26 AM UTC

Investors on Monday woke to a kind of Valentine’s Day massacre.

Stocks in Tokyo and Mumbai fell by more than 2%, creating a globe-spanning tsunami of selling as Russian troops amass on the border with Ukraine. Closer to the military hotspot, the bourses in Frankfurt, Paris, and Milan crashed even further at the open. Those geopolitical tensions dragged down U.S. futures, too, with contracts on S&P 500 futures off 1.2%.

Investors looking for cover in the crypto markets were undoubtedly disappointed. Bitcoin and Ethereum’s Ether are flatlining, but are down over the past week. So much for a Super Bowl bounce.

Monday’s selloff was widespread with every stock sector in Europe in the red out of the gates. Hardest hit were travel and leisure, bank, and tech sectors. The euro, too, is in steep decline as investors see European risk assets as particularly vulnerable should full-on war break out.

“Beyond the military and political issues, it would likely deal a temporary blow to business and consumer confidence in Europe,” Holger Schmieding, chief economist at Berenberg Bank, wrote in a note to clients. “Energy prices may spike further in Europe, adding even more to inflation for a while. In a worst-case scenario, a prolonged interruption in the flow of oil and gas could cause temporary energy shortages in parts of Europe.”

The flight to safety was evident in early trading on Monday, with investors pouring into gold, the dollar, and commodities. On cue, crude spiked again, with Brent, the global benchmark, topping $95, a near eight-year record.

The volatility in the energy markets in particular is sending jitters through global equities markets.

“By pushing energy prices even higher, a Russian invasion would likely exacerbate inflation and redouble pressure on the Fed to raise interest rates,” said Bill Adams, chief economist for Comerica Bank. “From the Fed’s perspective, the inflationary effects of a Russian invasion and higher energy prices would likely outweigh the shock’s negative implications for global growth.”

Last week, U.S. stocks fell on runaway inflation data and concerns the Federal Reserve would have to hike interest rates more aggressively than was forecasted just a few weeks ago. Add in the potential for war in Europe, and Wall Street pros are beginning to dial back their global growth projections and forecasts for stocks.

On Friday evening, Goldman Sachs slashed its full-year forecast for the S&P 500 to 4,900 (an 11% gain on Friday’s close), and the investment bank sees a full-year total return for investors of just 4%. How does that compare with 2021? Badly. Really badly. Last year, the benchmark index generated total returns of nearly 29%.

The problem, as Goldman sees it, is “a weakening dollar, a tight labor market, rising oil prices, and elevated inflation” will conspire to sink valuations.

Check out this Fortune must-read: “Why Wall Street thinks the metaverse will be worth trillions”