As investors chart a course through choppy economic waters, the strength in commodity prices and equities tied to them continues to be a bright spot for the Canadian equity market. We note that the geopolitical backdrop in Europe could dampen consumer sentiment or delay interest-rate increases in North America.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine in late February has made the investment backdrop even more complicated. The conflict in Ukraine presents a risk to U.S. stocks principally through its impact on the oil price (higher inflation) and, more specifically, the price of gasoline (lower consumer spending).
Europe’s markets are particularly bountiful in large-cap defensive stocks, which offer direct exposure to the continent’s strong economic backdrop and some offset to the negative impact of rate hikes. Geopolitical risks have climbed dramatically in the past few weeks and it may be that they overshadow fundamentals in the short term.
Asian equities pulled back during the latest three-month period amid a wide divergence in performance among countries, with declines accelerating in late February after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created concern that the conflict would inhibit economic growth and lead to skyrocketing fuel prices.
China was the main contributor to the poor performance during 2021, notably as a stricter regulatory environment hit the large internet sector. A major risk for 2022 is the zero-COVID policy pursued by the Chinese government. Finally, the situation in Ukraine brings the prospect of even higher inflation and the risk that more countries could be involved in the conflict.
The two-week-old war between Russia and Ukraine and the global response to the conflict are evolving rapidly, and in a way that suggests the trajectories of economic growth and financial-market performance have been significantly altered from just a month ago.