Oil climbs, U.S. stocks edge lower as Ukraine remains in focus

Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, was trading nearly 6 percent higher Monday, above $114 per barrel. West Texas Intermediate crude, the US oil benchmark, was trading up 5.5 percent, around $110.50 per barrel.

Meanwhile, Moscow’s MOEX exchange partially reopened for the first time in three weeks, after equities endured the most brutal sell-off in market history in the swift economic backlash from the invasion of Ukraine.

The Bank of Russia said Monday that federal loan bonds would resume trading, days after the government made a $117 million interest payment to foreign bondholders, averting what would have been its first foreign debt default since 1918. Other trading remains suspended, as the government seeks to shield stocks from the pain that Russian-listed firms outside the country have felt in recent weeks amid the cavalcade of sanctions.

“After three weeks of inactivity, investors will welcome the reopening of Russian exchanges simply to provide some incremental transparency on where securities are actually being priced today,” Wayne Wicker, chief investment officer at MissionSquare Retirement, told The Washington Post in an email. “While these exchanges have been closed, investors who held positions in Russia have been forced to rely on fair value estimates without the benefit of actual transactions for those securities traded exclusively on The Moscow Exchange.”

President Biden is heading to Europe for urgent meetings with NATO and his allies this week as the war approaches the one-month mark. Volatility has raged in global markets throughout the conflict. Investors have been glued to headlines out of Ukraine because Russia, which is one of the world’s biggest energy producers, has the potential to wreak havoc in energy markets that could create dangerous inflation. Even before the invasion, inflation had surged to its highest level since the 1980s.

Companies and households have been confronting cost increases at just about every step of the supply chain and every shelf in the supermarket. Rents have surged, as have prices for used and new cars. The US average for a gallon of gas was $4.25 on Monday, according to data from AAA. That’s down a few cents from recent highs but still 72 cents higher than a month ago.

Last week, the Federal Reserve announced its first interest rate increase since 2018 and set the stage for several more increases. The widely telegraphed move also helped to lift markets as investors took assurance that the central bank was moving aggressively to rein in inflation, spurring some movement back into riskier stocks.

But now, traders may be taking “a more defensive stance” according to Chis Larkin, managing director at E-Trade from Morgan Stanley.

“With the Fed’s announcement in the rearview and a fairly light economic calendar this week, the Ukraine conflict may swing back as the market driver in the days ahead,” Larkin said Monday in comments emailed to The Post.

Still, the strong performance last week was proof of the markets’ underlying confidence and hunger for good news, despite the maelstrom of head winds from the pandemic to supply chain crunch and the fallout from the war according to Ivan Feinseth, chief investment officer at Tigress Financial Partners.

“There continues to be a strong bullish narrative,” Feinseth said Monday in comments emailed to The Post, noting that there has not been “a significant recalibration of corporate outlooks, even as analysts have ratcheted down 2022 estimates and stock price targets.”

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