Week Ahead: Russia/Ukraine, Iran, ECB, and CPI


The main driver of prices this week will continue to be the uncertainty from the Russia/Ukraine conflict.

Russia continues its invasion into Ukraine. Reports from last week that Russia struck a nuclear plant were a bit stretched. However, headlines continue to roll out. Will there be a ceasefire agreement this week? In addition, Iran seems likely to return to the market with more oil as a nuclear agreement draws near. Will this help stunt the price of rising oil? The ECB also meets this week. Although expectations are for the central bank to leave rates on hold, it may update its guidance on asset purchases and even mention the possibility of a rate hike by year end! The US will also release CPI this week. Can anything stop this inflation train from picking up steam? And will a higher reading cause the Fed to increase rates by 50bps when they meet on March 16th?


Russia and Ukraine


As Russian forces continue their move into Ukraine, rumours swirled towards the end of the week that Russia had hit Zaporizhzhia Power Plant. However, no reactors were hit, and it appears that only minor damage was done. That was enough to scare investors into selling stocks and buying safe havens such as the US Dollar, Japanese Yen, and Bonds. As of the time of this writing, reports are suggesting that there is heavy fighting throughout the country, and now near the capital city of Kyiv. French President Macron, after speaking with Putin last week, said he believes that “the worst is yet to come”. However, talks between Russia and Ukraine suggested that there would be a humanitarian corridor for civilians to leave and aid workers to enter. Will that take place this week? Talks are supposed to continue this week. Can the two sides find common ground for a ceasefire?


Iran


Iran has been meeting with negotiators in Vienna to try and revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, which President Trump tossed out in 2018. Participants are hinting that a deal is within reach, possibly as soon as this week. This would remove sanctions and allow Iran to supply oil to the markets again to the tune of roughly 1,000,000 bpd. An agreement couldn’t come at a better time, as countries have basically cut off Russia oil. Prices of Crude Oil have been soaring as a result with WTI reaching an intraday high of 116.51 last week, while Brent Crude reached as high as 118.80. Watch to see if a deal this week will take some of the price pressure off oil.


ECB


The European Central Bank will meet on Thursday this week at their March interest rate decision meeting. By all accounts they will leave rates unchanged at 0.00%, however they may scale back the pace of their asset purchases. EU CPI released last week for February showed that inflation jumped from 5.1% in January to 5.8%! In addition, Core CPI rose to 2.7% from 2.3%. Note that the ECB targets 2% inflation. The central bank will mostly likely note the Russia/Ukraine conflict as a new event risk to raising interest rates too soon. During Christine Lagarde’s press conference after the last meeting, she did not dismiss the notion of raising rates by the end of the year (as she did as the previous meeting). Could the ECB be more hawkish at this meeting, and possibly even suggest that an interest rate hike is likely by the end of the year?


China



Prior to the ECB, China’s National People’s Congress will meet this weekend. The Chinese government is expected to announce economic policies for 2022 ahead of the 20th Part Congress in the Autumn. Policies are expected to be geared toward stability. Therefore, they should be pro-growth after the damage from deleveraging and regulatory crackdowns. Watch to see if these policies will promote Chinese stocks, bonds and currency as a safe haven play away from the chaos of the US and EU markets.


Earnings


Although earning season has just about come to an end in the US, there are still a few stragglers, such as BBY, GPS, RIVN, and ORCL which report this week. In addition, earnings season isn’t over is the UK either! A few of the larger businesses from the UK reporting are as follows: AHT, FRES, LGEN, TWL


Economic Data


In addition to the ECB meeting on Thursday, the other major economic event this week will be US CPI. Expectations are for a print of 7.9% YoY for February vs 7.5% YoY in January. Core CPI is expected to rise to 6.4% YoY vs 6% in January! The Fed will have to weigh the effects of rising inflation, slower growth, and a war, when they meet next week and decide if they should raise interest rates.


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Other important economic data to be released this week is as follows:


Monday


China: Trade Balance (Jan-Feb)

Germany: Factory Orders (JAN)

UK: Halifax House Price Index (FEB)

Tuesday


Australia: NAB Business Confidence (FEB)

Germany: Retail Sales (JAN)

Germany: Industrial Production (JAN)

EU: GDP Growth Rate 3rd Est (Q4)

EU: Employment Change Final (Q4)

US: Trade Balance (JAN)

Canada: Trade Balance (JAN)

Wednesday


Australia: RBA Gov Lowe Speech

Australia: Westpac Consumer Confidence (MAR)

Japan: GDP Growth Rate Final (Q4)

China: CPI (FEB)

China: PPI (FEB)

Mexico: CPI (FEB)

Crude Inventories

Thursday


Japan: PPI (FEB)

Australia: Consumer Inflation Expectations (MAR)

Australia: Building Permits Final (JAN)

EU: ECB Interest Rate Decision

US: CPI (FEB)

Friday


New Zealand: Business NZ PMI (FEB)

New Zealand: Food Inflation (FEB)

Australia: RBA Gov Lowe Speech

Germany: CPI Final (FEB)

UK: Trade Balance (JAN)

UK: GDP (JAN)

UK: Industrial Production (JAN)

UK: Manufacturing Production (JAN)

Canada: Employment Change (FEB)

US: Michigan Consumer Sentiment Prel (MAR)