Everyone’s eyes are on the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the past couple of weeks. How do traders make smart decisions in a geopolitically risky environment like this? Tracy Shuchart also explains why the fertilizer market is up 23% last week, what commodities are mostly impacted by the conflict, and how’s China’s energy relationship with Russia? Sam explains the effects on the emerging marketing of the different sanctions on Russia and why China’s exporting deflation is good for the US. Albert elaborates why the conflict is actually a “boom” for China.
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TN: Hi and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash and I’m joined by Tracy Shuchart, Albert Marko, and Sam Rines. Thanks for joining us. Before we get started, I’d like to ask you to subscribe to our YouTube channel. And like this video helps us out to get visibility, helps you get notifications when we have a new video. So if you wouldn’t mind doing that right now, we would be grateful.
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So this week, guys, we saw commodities mooning. We saw exposure to Russia sovereign. Really a lot of sensitivity to that. Exposure to Russia commercial risk. A lot of sensitivity to that. Obviously the war in Ukraine is on the top of everyone’s mind. But we also had the removal of COVID restrictions in some key US States like New York. We had Joe Biden speak give the State of the Union address without a mask on. All this stuff, easing of national guidelines. So the risk aspect of COVID has gone in the US, but it’s largely gone unnnoticed. So while the war ranges on overseas, at home, we do have some regulation getting out of the way.
A few things we said last week. First, we said that Ukraine would get bloodier and the markets would be choppier. That’s happened. We said that equities would be marginally down. That’s happened and we said commodity prices would be higher and that’s really happened.
So in all of this, guys, the S&P 500 is only down about 15 points over the past week. So when you guys said it would be down marginally with a lot of volatility, you were bang on there. So very good job there.
So our first question today is really a basic one and I’d really like to get all of your different views on this. When we have geopolitical events like we have now, how do you guys make trading decisions? What do you pay attention to? Albert, do you want to get us started?
AM: Yes. Personally I view the market as we’re stuck on repeat right now, especially with the Ukraine and everything fundamentals to me right now. I mean, honestly don’t really mean much. And when we had the jobs number come out and then it was everyone just yawned about it because the nuclear power plants were getting firebound.
So for me I’m looking for the Fed to support the market to a certain degree and looking for geopolitical news events to come out and just scare the bejesus out of people.
TN: Okay. Tracy, what are you looking at? Sorry, Sam. What are you looking at?
SR: Yeah, I’ll jump in there 100% agree with Albert. It’s very difficult to trade when the market is just trading on headlines. It is a straight headline market. And does oil look great here? Yeah, but you get one good headline saying that it looks like tensions with Russia are declining and you’re going to have a $5 gap down in oil and probably get stopped out of your position.
To me, it’s one of those very scary moments for anyone who’s trying to trade in that you never know which way the headline is going to come in next. If you’re playing headlines, you’re going to get in trouble and you’re going to get in trouble pretty fast, unless you’re just getting lucky. So for me, headline driven markets are mostly about selling ball and spikes and getting out of the way on everything else.
TS: Well, being that I mostly look at the commodity markets rather than obviously I look at broader markets. But for what I’m looking at, when I see this sort of volatility in the market, I think that you have to have a fundamental grasp of what is going on and what the trade differences are between countries so that you can kind of position yourself for a market change that is not subject to volatility, meaning that you have to know that the oil market is obviously going to be affected, for example. Right. No matter what dips are going to be bought in this market. So you have to have a conviction that this is going to be affected until something else changes, right?
TN: Yes. Tracy, let me dig in on that a little bit. You said something about Fertilizers. We don’t necessarily didn’t mention a specific company here, but you said something about Fertilizers earlier on Twitter today. Could you use that as an example of the type of analysis that you’re talking about?
TS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we saw the Fertilizer market rise 23% today. Russia is the second largest producer of Ammonium, Urea and potash, and the fifth largest producer of processed phosphates. And that country accounts for 23% of the global Ammonium export market. So what we saw in the Fertilizer market was an increase of 23% this week across the globe, not just in the United States, I mean, literally across the globe.
TN: I just wanted to cover this little bit because especially in social media, everyone’s an expert, right. So everyone’s a new political expert. Everyone overnight became a nuclear power expert, all this other stuff. And I just don’t want our viewers to fool themselves into believing that they can play these markets with certainty. But I like what you guys all said about you have to have a conviction. You have to have your stops in place. You have to understand when things are going. And headlines could go either way. So there’s a huge amount of risk out there. Right.
Is there anything else on this? Albert, what are you watching on the ground? How do you get information on the ground if you don’t have people? Are there reliable sources that you look at without having first hand research on the ground?
AM: No. Unfortunately, I don’t. I mean, we’ve come to this point where the nuclear plant attack and all of a sudden people are talking about radiation spikes and so on and so forth. And I actually had to get on Twitter and I’m just like, everybody, relax. Those things can withstand airplanes being hit.
A few bullets isn’t going to do the job. So for me, I personally have context in the region on the ground, both in Ukraine and Georgia. So for me, I get almost on the ground intelligence in real time. So that’s how I’m trading. That’s just the reality of it at the moment. The public is not going to be able to get that information. Right.
TN: Okay. This is great. I really appreciate this, guys. I think this is wisdom that comes from years of trading, but it’s also the reality that comes with dealing with geopolitics on a very intimate level. So thanks for that.
Let’s move on to commodities. We’ve seen commodities, wheat, especially skyrocket this week and last week. So a couple of questions here. Tracy, if you don’t mind starting us off. It seems like every commodity was green this week. I know there are a few that weren’t, but what commodities are impacted most by Russia, Ukraine?
TS: Well, so fertilizer, which I brought up earlier. And then you have aluminum, which was up 14.7% today, or this week. Pardon me. We have copper, 9.34%, neon gas, which is something that most people don’t look at. But Ukraine supplies 90% of the neon gas market for the chip making markets. Then we had Palladium up 37%. Not surprising, Russia supply 43% up that market.
TN: You’ve been talking about Palladium for weeks, though. So anybody listening to you wouldn’t be surprised by this, right?
TS: Right. Not at all. I’ve been talking about this for a very long time. And actually we’re seeing platinum get a little bit of a bid because if you look at the automotive markets, Palladium is a huge thing in a catalytic converter. Right. And so we’re starting to see because prices have been so elevated for the last few years, we’re seeing automakers finally start to retool a bit. And so that’s going to give a little bit of a lift to the platinum markets.
Natural gas obviously is up. Right. We all know about that. Oil obviously up. We have nickel up 9%. The other interesting thing is coal. Russia is a material coal supplier at 15% of the global market. And Europe gets 30% of their imports from the met coal market from Russia and 60% from the thermal coal market. So they’re going to be looking elsewhere for other supplies because they don’t want to have all their eggs in one basket. Where you can have everything in coal and that gas and depend on Russia.
I do want to know on the natural gas market, although there have been rumors Yamal was shut down or whatever. But overall, Jamal is only one pipeline into Europe. Gas supplies have still been consistent and steady this whole time into Europe via different pipelines through Russia.
TN: So weird.
TS: So nobody’s caught off of gas. Right. That’s just weird. They’re on other sides of the war, but one is still supplying the other side energy. I just think that whole thing is very.
AM: Yeah, Tony, you know what concerns me, actually, this is a question for Tracy, too, is like the super spikes in commodities are starting to concern me specifically because of wheat, because obviously that’s food. And once people start getting stressed on food supplies, political problems can happen. I think even today, Hungary decided that they cut off all exports of foods, of wheat and grains because of the concern of spiking prices.
Tracy, where do we see wheat possibly even topping off at this point, especially if Ukraine and Russia go at it for an extended period of time, like, say, three to four weeks?
TS: Yeah. I mean, hopefully they won’t. But as far as that’s concerned, we’re looking at the Black Sea right now because exports are halted, because there’s conflict going on, this is what I think European wheat and US wheat has been limited up literally every day this week. Right.
So that’s going to be a problem that’s going to cause inflation, food inflation elsewhere. And let’s not forget that’s how the Arab Spring started as well. Right. So this is very much a concern globally on a macro sense, on food prices, energy prices, especially when we’re looking at kind of a global downturn in the market. And that’s a whole another discussion we can get in another week, but definitely it’s a concern right now.
TN: Let’s dig a little bit deeper into that. We have a viewer question from @Ramrulez. And Sam, can you take a look at this? The impact of sanctions on Russia, on emerging economies. So where are we seeing impacts of, say, wheat prices? I know Albert brought up Hungary, but what are we seeing in, say, emerging markets and other places that this is already hitting them?
SR: I don’t know that there are places that it’s already hitting, mostly because you’re going to have imported wheat. Wheat right now is being harvested in Ukraine, Hungary, Russia, etc. And that’s going to be more of a late spring summer story when you begin to actually have to import your additional food supplies.
So where would you see it? You’d see it in Egypt. Egypt is a significant importer of both Russian and Ukrainian wheat. You’re going to see it on the cornside, too. It’s worth remembering that Ukraine is a significant exporter of corn. You’re going to see it in Semple our way up, which is going to spill over into other markets because you’re going to have to, if there is no resolution or planting season, you’re going to have to replace some flour, oil with something else. So you’re going to have that issue to deal with as well.
So I don’t know that you’ve seen the spillovers yet. You will see spillovers particularly in North Africa, other significant importers of foodstuffs. The other thing to remember is it could potentially be a marginal benefit to some emerging markets. As you see, net exporters of coal, et cetera, become incremental sources for replacement for both Ukraine and Russia. So I think it’s something to keep an eye on both on the food price front, but also on the front of it’s going to be good for some. It’s going to be very bad for others.
TN: Okay. Thanks for that. Hey, before we move on from commodities, Tracy, I want to roll back to this viewer question we have from @YoungerBolling. Yes. What are the other sources of crude, grade wise, that can replace Russian crude for US refineries? This is a common question, and I’m sure you can answer it very quickly. So where else can people look to get Russian grade crude?
TS: We get kind of the sludgy stuff from them. Right. So the best, most convenient, easiest place to get it from is Canada. Right. We can get some heavier crude grades from Mexico, but they’re having some political problems there and it’s coming up. So really the easiest place we can look to is to Canada. So opening import lines from Canada is really our best option since they’re on our border.
TN: Didn’t the US cancel a pipeline from Canada about a year ago?
TS: Something decided. Yeah.
TN: Okay. Thanks for that. And then moving to another question, we spoke a bit about China last week, and I’m curious for any further thoughts that the panel has on China in light of last week’s, of this past week events. We do have a viewer question to get us started off. It’s from @HJCdarkhorse1. He says perspectives on Chinese Yuan. But before we get into that, Tracy, let’s talk a little bit about China’s energy relationship with Russia. What do you see happening on that front?
TS: Right. First of all, if we’re looking at the oil industry, China is Russia’s largest importer. Right. I think that anything that comes off the market wise via the west, that China will gladly scoop up at a $28 discount that they’re currently offering. Right. That is interesting in that respect.
There are still 1.5 million barrels kind of off the market. I want to stress nobody has sanctioned oil or energy at all so far. UK, EU, US. That said that people are hesitant and anticipating, and it’s hard to get banknotes right now to get those deals going through. But China is definitely their largest trading partner. China definitely loves cheap oil. So we’re going to continue buying from them no matter what.
TN: Are their pipelines between Russia and China?
TS: There are, but not like not enough. Not enough.
AM: Did they just cut a deal for a new pipeline that’s going to pretty much be equal. Sorry. That’s for net gas, that equals North Korean, too.
TN: Did they also come to some agreement recently about buying crude in CNY? Did that happen in the past?
TS: No, that was buying jet fuel.
TS: What they said is if we’re in your airport, we’ll buy in your currency. If you’re in our airport, you’ll buy in our currency, which is not that big. Literally.
TN: To some people’s dismay, the US dollar is still the currency for energy.
TS: Since we’re talking about currencies, you and I have talked about CNY for a long time. So can you give us kind of some perspectives on that? I know we had a question about that as well.
TN: Sure. So CNY. Chinese Yuan is a controlled currency. It’s not a freely floating currency. There is an offshore currency called CNH that is, we’ll say marginally floating currency that is linked to the CNY. But the CNY is strictly managed by the PBOC. And when you have a managed currency, it’s devalued. Okay. It’s appreciated and it’s devalued.
And so what’s happened over the last two years is the CNY has appreciated dramatically. And a big part of that is so that they can buy commodities, knowing that commodities would spike starting in the second quarter of 2020, China’s appreciated CNY so they could hoard those commodities, which they’ve done. Okay.
What’s happened? Well, Chinese exporters have suffered a bit because of the appreciated CNY. On a relative basis, they’re paying higher prices, but their experts have been up, too. So they’re not hurt too much. But we have a lot of things happening in China with a big political meeting in November to where they’re starting to spend in a big way, fiscal spending. We’ve also expected since probably August of ’21, we’ve been talking about China starting to devalue the CNY at the end of first quarter or early second quarter of this year.
So what that will do is it will make things a lot easier for exporters. And so exporters will be happy. There’ll be a lot of fiscal stimulus, a lot of monetary stimulus. So that just in time for this political meeting, everyone domestically in China is pretty happy. So we expect a lot of stimulus and a devalued CNY is a big part of that.
SR: And just to kind of jump on that really fast, that’s a positive on the US inflation fighting front. It’s significant positive. We are going to get.
TS: If you’re exporting deflation, that’s fantastic.
SR: Exactly. So when China goes back to to exporting deflation instead of exporting inflation, that’s going to be a completely different ballgame from what we’ve seen for the past year and a half.
TN: That’s a very good thing. Okay, guys, anything else on China, Albert? Do you have any anything on China that you want to add?
AM: Honestly for China? I don’t really see people talking about the fact that this entire Ukraine and Russia war has been a boom for China. They’re getting cheaper commodities. They’re getting a tighter relationship with Russia, although it’s going to be debatable that Russia is going to be a shell of what it was after all this. But still for China, they’re sitting pretty at the moment. I mean, any other place in the world where the Russians had their hands in the domestic economies of countries that China also did is now going to have to take a step back and allow the Chinese to get their banks financing different countries projects. It’s going to be unbelievable for China in the next couple of years.
TN: Yeah. I wonder if the Belt and Road is going to rebuild Ukraine. It’s a cynical question, but I think it’s an opportunity for China to do something like that on infrastructure.
AM: They’re going to have to because Russia is going to have nothing left economically. Right.
SR: And to begin with, there was a $1.58 trillion economy.
TN: Right. But it’s a very detailed answer to that simple question. But yeah, I think it is a medium term opportunity for China as well, not just in getting cheap commodities now or discounted commodities, we’ll say now, but also long term for their financial system, for their infrastructure system and other things. Right.
AM: Got you.
TN: Okay. So what guys are we looking forward to in the week ahead? Tracy, what do you see over the next week?
TS: Again, I’m going to say volatility. I think markets are going to be very volatile, just like we saw this last week. We had eight to ten dollar moves in crude oil like the blink of an eye. I think it’s going to continue to kind of see that in the commodities markets until there’s some sort of resolution to this Ukraine-Russia crisis because there’s too many commodity sectors involved in this.
TN: Right. Sam, same for you, but you talk about the kind of twos and ten years a couple of weeks ago, and I’m curious what your observation is there in addition to other things?
SR: Yeah. The front end of the US curve has been nuts this week, and I think you can kind of attribute that back to two reasons. One, we sucked out all of the Russian reserves from being able to participate in the market, period, full stop. You probably have a significant amount of hoarding on the front end from Russian banks. Call it the zero to three year type timeframe. That’s where they typically play. So I think you continue to see volatility there. That’s going to be absolutely insane.
The Fed. I don’t think the Fed is going to be all that surprising. The Fed was really interesting three weeks ago, and now it’s kind of boring. You’re going to get 25 bps. You’re going to get some gangs on QT. Nobody cares. We’ve kind of moved on from that.
TN: That’s interesting, though, right? Two months ago, 25 basis points was catastrophic. Kind of.
TN: And now it’s a faded company and nobody cares.
SR: Nobody cares. You had almost 700 jobs. 700,000 jobs created in February. We didn’t even talk about that. Nobody cares. Cool. 700k consecration up, whatever.
To Tracy’s point, I think it’s kind of a moss, right? More of the same. And just until you get some sort of resolution and some sort of clarity on how long we’re going to have these sanctions, this market is this market. It’s going to continue to be highly volatile and there’s no end of it in sight.
TN: Okay. Very good. And then, Albert, I’m going to ask you specifically about equities. So if we’re getting more of the same but we have upward pressure on commodities, what do you think is going to happen domestically with US equities? Do you think we’re going to see more of the same volatility? Do we have a downside bias? Do we have an upside bias? Where do you see things over the next week?
AM: Well, I mean, it’s hard to say that we have an upside bias at the moment with so much volatility. But from all my indications, I think Putin’s going to up the war rhetoric and surgeons in Ukraine, I think equities are going to have to come down to, I don’t know, 4200 4250. Right. And then we start talking to the start talking about the fed like Sam was talking 25 basis points is now the consensus. But I will have to say Jerome Powell said he was hoping that inflation is not a big problem when those meetings come. So don’t be surprised if it’s a 50 basis point hike.
TN: I think as an outlier, you could be right. I think it’s a possibility. I think it’s greater than 0%.
AM: If we’re talking about commodity supersight commodity surging, with all this volatility in this war, how is inflation going to come down in the next couple of weeks?
TN: Well, just ask a very direct question. A 50 basis point hike is intended to kill demand, right?
TN: That’s all it’s intended to do is kill demand.
AM: Of course. But from their perspective, you killed demand, you killed inflation. I don’t know if that’s going to, I doubt it’s going to work, but that’s their narrative.
TN: Right. Okay. Very good, guys. Thank you very much. Good luck in the next week and forgot for anybody viewing. Don’t forget about our CIF futures flash sale at completeintel.com/promo and see you next week. Thank you.
TS: Thank you.
AM: Thanks, Tony.
SR: Thank you.