(Sunshine Profits, Feb. 24) Boy, that escalated quickly! The Russia-Ukraine conflict is intensifying swiftly. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the recognition of two self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine (Donetsk and Luhansk regions). The decree also included an order to send Russian troops there as "peacekeeping forces".
In response, Ukraine declared a state of emergency, while the EU banned purchases of Russian government bonds and imposed sanctions on most members of the Russian parliament. Germany froze approvals for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. American President Joe Biden also released the first tranche of sanctions against Russia, targeted mainly at banks and sovereign debt, and promised further moves:
Today, I am announcing the first tranche of sanctions to impose a cost on Russia in response to their actions yesterday. We'll continue to escalate sanctions if Russia escalates. We are implementing full blocking sanctions on two large Russian financial institutions VEB and military bank. We are implementing comprehensive sanctions on Russia's sovereign debt. That means we've cut off Russia's government from Western financing. Starting tomorrow, we'll also impose sanctions on Russia's elites and family members.
Putin wasn't apparently impressed by these sanctions, as he authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine early Thursday. The invasion has started.
Indeed, there are reports of Russian troops crossing the Ukrainian border in multiple locations, and of explosions in many of the country's cities, including the capital, Kyiv. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that:
Putin has just launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes. This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now.
Implications for Gold
What does Russia's invasion of Ukraine imply for the gold market? Well, risk aversion has soared amid the conflict. Equities are plunging while safe-haven assets are soaring. This, of course, applies also to gold, which rallied to $1,905 on Wednesday, the highest level since January 2021, as the chart below shows.
In response to the invasion, the price of the yellow metal continued its upward trend, soaring to $1,945 on early Thursday, as one can see in the chart below. The move was perfectly in line with what I wrote on Tuesday: "if Russia invades Ukraine, the yellow metal should gain further."
Now, the question is: what next? I'm not a military expert, so I have no idea how the conflict will end. However, I know three things. The first is that the conflict will last some time. During the escalation period, gold prices will be driven up by risk aversion and safe-haven demand.
Second, the conflict will start to de-escalate and end at some point. Then, we could see a correction in the gold market. Having said that, the yellow metal doesn't have to immediately return to the pre-conflict level, as it could be supported by other factors, such as worries about inflation, and generally a rather bullish momentum. My point is that geopolitical events usually exert only a short-lived impact on gold, as they don't affect the true fundamentals of the gold market. These will be shaped by the inflation path and the Fed's reaction to it.
Third, the upcoming weeks could be hot for the gold market. Don't let emotions affect your investments. Remember the initial stage of the coronavirus pandemic? We all felt fear then – but it wasn't the best investment advisor. War is also terrifying, but so far the conflict is limited to Ukraine and Russia and we don't know yet whether the invasion will really escalate into a full-blown, bloody war. Be calm and stay tuned!
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Arkadiusz Sieron, PhD
Sunshine Profits: Effective Investment through Diligence & Care
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