Oil futures hit a 13-year high and European stocks sank to a year low on Monday as investors warily weigh the impact of a potential Western ban on Russian oil imports, and whether that could dash a post-Omicron economic recovery in Europe and beyond.
Brent crude spiked to near $139 in the Asian markets early on Monday, only to settle back to $127.44 at 4 a.m. ET. Even still, the global benchmark was trading at a 13-year high, back to a level last seen in the dark days of the global financial crisis in 2008. Natural gas prices in Europe, meanwhile, surged to a new record.
The volatility in the energy markets comes as the United States and European Union disclosed this weekend the allies are discussing a plan to impose a blanket embargo on Russian oil. Those headlines are triggering fresh growth concerns in Europe, a market that’s highly dependent on Russian crude and natural gas.
“Exactly how badly the European economy will be hit is anyone’s guess at this stage, but the post-COVID recovery will surely be significantly delayed with a clear risk that we could be heading into a period of stagflation—if not even a recession with inflation,” wrote Erik F. Nielsen, group chief economics adviser for UniCredit, in an investor note.
On cue, investors were dumping risk assets on Monday. The Europe Stoxx 600 fell more than 2% out of the gates to hit a one-year low; it’s off roughly 9% in the past six trading sessions. The weakest sector on Monday was European banks, with big lenders such as Société Générale and Deutsche Bank off more than 10% in the first hour of trading. Germany’s DAX was also sagging, down more than 3% at the open. If it were to close there, the index of Germany’s biggest listed companies would officially sink into bear territory.
U.S. futures point to a rough open, too—though not quite on the scale seen in Asia or Europe. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 were down more than 1.5% in premarket.
The Russian stock market, meanwhile, will remain closed today and tomorrow.
Crypto in the red
Elsewhere, safe havens gold and the dollar jumped again, as did commodities. Wheat futures, plus aluminum, copper, and palladium—each of which are big Russian and Ukrainian exports—jumped by double-digit percentage gains.
Crypto is clearly not in the investor “safe haven” basket as war intensifies in Ukraine. On Monday morning, the price board again was awash in red with Bitcoin trading around $38,000, off more than 13% since hitting $44,000 on Thursday.
If there is one silver lining out there for investors it could come from corporate America. Goldman Sachs now forecasts that corporates will boost share buybacks this year as stock prices continue to sink.
“We raise our 2022 S&P 500 buyback forecast to $1 trillion, representing growth of +12% (vs. +8% previously),” writes David J. Kostin, chief U.S. equity strategist at Goldman Sachs, in a note to clients this morning.
“Total authorizations,” he continues, “have already totaled $238 billion YTD, a record high at this point in the year.”