Financial Market Breakdown – Week of March 7, 2022


Quick Highlights

  • Futures are sharply lower as oil spiked more than 6% (above $120/bbl) overnight on multiple reports the West is actively considering an embargo on Russian oil and gas.
  • Geopolitically, there were attempts at localized cease fires in southern Ukraine to allow citizens to flee the cities, but those efforts have been, so far, a failure. More peace talks are scheduled for today.
  • Economic data was solid as German Manufacturers’ Orders and Retail Sales both beat estimates.

What’s Happening in the Financial Market?

Stocks wavered between gains and losses last week as investors continued to monitor the conflict in Ukraine and subsequent sanctions on Russia as well as mixed global economic data. The S&P 500 fell 1.27% on the week and is down 9.18% YTD.
When Russia invaded Ukraine approximately 10 days ago, we highlighted that the duration of the conflict would be the key variable for markets— and more directly how long the conflict lasted, and how sustainably high it sent commodity prices, would determine whether the war was a material bearish influence.
At this point, the duration isn’t long enough yet to make us get materially more defensive, but it’s getting close. We say that because we aren’t even seeing de-escalation yet never mind a sustainable end to hostilities. We have a similar situation with inflation. Markets need inflation to recede, but before that happens it has to peak first (i.e. stop getting worse every month) and we’re not even there yet!
Relating it back to Russia/Ukraine, first, we have to get de-escalation. Then, we need a ceasefire that holds. Then, Russian troop withdrawals. Only after all of that will we see the historically crippling sanctions levied on Russia by the West begin to be removed—and then we should see a real decline in commodity prices. At this point, however, that’s potentially weeks away (if not longer) and that’s a growing problem for risk assets.
Meanwhile, the Fed remains on track to hike rates into a strengthening headwind on the economy, e.g. high inflation and exploding commodity prices, and a natural slowing of demand as fiscal spending/stimulus fully exits the system. Taken altogether, we are not ready yet to abandon our 4,300-ish—4,600 trading range in the S&P 500—but we are getting nervous about downside risks.
Before Russia/Ukraine, the Fed had little room for error with high inflation and a looming slowdown in growth. Now, Russia/Ukraine has made that job all the more difficult via exploding commodity prices, which at a minimum will reduce economic demand and put more of a headwind on the economy over the coming months.

Bottom Line

With inflation high, the Fed hiking rates, commodity prices surging and the Fed about to start hiking rates, the markets need solid economic growth and they largely got it last week. However, sensitivity to economic data will rise over the coming weeks as the economy is now facing multiple short-term headwinds. And if data starts to roll over, that will be a new and material headwind on stocks as stagflation risks will surge. So, we will be watching the data very closely in the weeks and months ahead, because if stagflation is coming, we will want to get defensive quickly.

Near-Term General U.S. Stock Market Outlook

Near-Term (1 month) Stock Market Outlook: Neutral
Stocks dropped again last week as the Russia/Ukraine war further intensified, sending commodity prices soaring and increasing the chances of a future slow-down in economic growth. The longer the conflict goes on, the greater the head- wind it will become on stocks.

By The Numbers



Bane O'Leary