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Global stocks and crypto suffer ‘seismic’ tumble after Russia attacks Ukraine

February 24, 2022, 9:40 AM UTC

Not long after Russian bombs rained down on Ukraine, stock markets around the world and U.S. futures plunged.

“The market reaction to these developments has been seismic,” Deutsche Bank thematic research strategist Jim Reid told investors in a morning note on Thursday.

Futures contracts point to a near 3% drop on the Nasdaq, pushing the tech-heavy index closer to bear territory. The benchmark S&P is looking only slightly better.

The biggest loser this morning can be found in Moscow. Russia’s MOEX fell an astounding 45% midmorning, with its biggest banks dragging down the exchange as investors brace for a new round of targeted sanctions against the country’s lenders. On cue, shares in Sberbank and VTB Bank cratered. They’re both off more than 50% a few hours into the trading day.

The ruble, too, plummeted against the dollar, prompting the Russian central bank to plot FX intervention.

Emerging markets, crypto sink

The pain in emerging markets spread far and wide. Stocks in Turkey were down 6% and India’s BSE Index fell nearly 4% as a risk-off mood prevails on Thursday.

With the world waking up to the biggest military attack on European soil since World War II, investors took flight to safe havens. Brent crude spiked to $103 per barrel as of 4 a.m. ET. Natural-gas futures contracts, priced in the Netherlands, gained nearly 20% as war involving one of the planet’s biggest oil and gas exporters continues to roil global energy markets.

In another sign of investor skittishness, sovereign bond prices on both sides of the Atlantic jumped, and gold hit a 13-month high, approaching $2,000 an ounce. The dollar climbed too.

On the flip side, stocks with any kind of Russia exposure fell sharply on Thursday. French carmaker Renault, which calls Russia one of its biggest export markets, saw shares fall 13% at the open. Similarly, French lender Société Générale fell more than 5%.

Crypto, too, is proving to be anything but a safe haven. Bitcoin fell to as low as $34,300 at 1:30 a.m. ET before recovering slightly.

For weeks now, investors have seen that the volatility in the crypto and equities markets runs in lockstep, walloping both risk-asset classes. Analysts see more of the same turmoil in the near term.

As Berenberg chief economist Holger Schmieding warned clients in an investor note this morning, “further significant risk-off moves in markets” will continue over the next one to two months “amid unusual uncertainty followed by a rebound once the outlook becomes clearer.”

Check out this Fortune must-read: “Tech investors are suffering the second stocks rout of the COVID pandemic—and Wall Street thinks it could get far worse”