Russia Sanctions Ripple Across World Markets, Rouble Tanks

By Reuters
February 28, 2022 Updated: February 28, 2022

LONDON—World stocks slid, oil prices jumped and the rouble tanked to fresh record lows on Monday, as the West ramped up sanctions against Russia for its attack on Ukraine that included blocking banks from the SWIFT global payments system.

Russia’s central bank raised its key interest rate to 20 percent from 9.5 percent in an emergency move, and authorities told export-focused companies to be ready to sell foreign currency as the rouble slid almost 30 percent to record lows versus the dollar.

As an economic crisis loomed in Russia, the fallout of tougher sanctions from the West imposed over the weekend rippled out across financial markets.

European stocks slumped 2 percent. European banks most exposed to Russia, including Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank, UniCredit, and Societe Generale, dropped between 9 and 15 percent, while the wider eurozone banking index fell 7 percent.

U.S. stock futures were deep in negative territory, although MSCI’s broad gauge of Asia shares and Japan’s Nikkei eked out small gains.

“The trading environment is highly dynamic, and we maintain a defensive stance as things could get a lot worse from here,” said Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank.

Oil prices meanwhile surged after Russian President Vladimir Putin put nuclear-armed forces on high alert on Sunday.

The ramp-up in tensions heightened fears that oil supplies from the world’s second-largest producer could be disrupted, sending Brent crude futures up 5 percent to $102.86. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures were up $4.62 or almost 5.0 percent at $96.24 a barrel.

“I am telling clients all we know for certain is that energy prices are going to be higher, and there are going to be some beneficiaries,” said John Milroy, Ord Minnett financial advisor in Sydney.

“It’s an old cliché, but it’s true that uncertainty drives moves in both directions.”

A woman walks past a board showing the U.S. dollar sign in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on Feb. 22, 2022. (Anton Vaganov/Reuters)

Safe-havens Shine

As uncertainty continued to grip markets, investors plumped for the safety of the dollar, Swiss franc, and Japanese yen.

The euro slid 1 percent to $1.1168 and 0.9 percent to 129.08 yen, while the risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars fell 0.5 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively.

Sovereign bonds such as the U.S. Treasuries and German Bunds—regarded as among the safest assets to hold globally—remained in strong demand.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield was down around 7 basis points to 1.90 percent in London trade, and equivalent German yields were down 6 basis points to 0.16 percent.

Money markets continued to push back rate hike expectations with investors now pricing roughly 30 basis points worth of tightening from the European Central Bank in total this year, down from 35 bps late last week.

Gold was last up 0.61 percent to around $1,899.

Russia’s rouble dived almost 30 percent to a record-low 120 per dollar, but recovered some ground to last trade at just over 100 to the dollar.

MSCI’s Russia equity index slid 25 percent, while London and Frankfurt-listed Russian equity exchange traded funds (ETFs) tanked more than 35 percent as investors dumped Russian assets.

By Dhara Ranasinghe