Winners and Losers as Putin Moves Into Ukraine

Russian tanks are in Eastern Ukraine. While investors try to guess Putin's next move, and how Western nations will try to punish it, here's the market impact we can see right now. 

Lukas Strobl 22 February, 2022 | 1:45PM
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Putin meets security officials

Moments after Russia recognised rebel-held areas of Eastern Ukraine as independent states Monday night, Russian military forces started pouring into the area under the banner of a ‘peacekeeping operation’.

The move answers investors’ question whether Putin’s troop buildup of recent months was merely a bluff – it wasn’t, and markets have begun to price in the reality that efforts to de-escalate the situation have failed.

Watch Morningstar CIO Dan Kemp's take on what investors need to keep in mind now.

The Losers

In the hours after Putin’s announcement, the ruble weakened against the dollar by 3%, the most since early 2020. Russia’s MOEX stock benchmark continued its months-long slide on Tuesday morning, falling as much as 11% and extending year-to-date losses to 28% with economically-sensitive sectors such as banking, mining and construction declining the most.

The jitters have been felt in Western Europe as well, with the S&P 350 Europe Index retreating 2% in the morning, though it pared losses as investors stepped back to see how far Western sanctions actually go.

The region’s biggest losers included energy firms exposed to the Gazprom-led Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, including Uniper (UN01, -3.4% intraday) and Fortum (FORTUM, -4.2%) after Germany’s move to halt the pipeline’s certification.

European banks exposed to Russia also featured among the day’s worst performers. They included Austria’s Raiffeisen (RBI, -7%), while SocGen’s (GLE, -0.7%) Russian exposure was cushioned by media reports that its Russian unit Rosbank positioned it to help other lenders with Russian transactions.

The Outperformers

The overnight shock didn’t just have losers on the stock market. With Brent crude oil futures spiking to a seven-year high of close to $100 a barrel, European majors including Shell (SHEL, +1.7%), BP (BP., +0.7%) and Eni (ENI, +1.2%) were at the head of the pack.

The sector’s outperformance was even clearer in the U.S. pre-market, with Exxon (XOM, +0.8%), ConocoPhillips (COP, +2.6%) and Chevron (CVX, +1.7%) riding the crude price rally. This is in line with Morningstar strategist Allen Good’s prediction in late January that U.S. energy majors stronger focus on crude oil makes them a more direct bet on rising geopolitical risk premiums.

A return to armed conflict in Europe is also raising the prospect of increased defence spending in the West. "The heightened threat environment is likely to put upward pressure on the defense spending outlook for NATO members," Berenberg analysts led by Ross Law wrote in a note last week.

The threat of pricier raw materials as a result of reduced Russian supplies is tempering some of the tailwind for defense stocks; still, Tuesday’s outperformers included all European defense majors. In its note, Berenberg highlighted BAE Systems (BA., +0.4%), Airbus (AIR, +1.3%) and Rheinmetall (RHM, +1.9%) as particularly well-positioned to benefit from conflict-driven demand.

Lingering Doubt

It remains unclear whether Russia’s move into two secessionist areas was Putin’s objective, or just a precursor to a much larger campaign against Ukraine. The conflict’s impact on markets heavily depends on the severity of Western economic sanctions, which were still taking shape on Tuesday.

"We doubt the full scale of sanctions threatened by the West will be rolled out," UBS CIO Mark Haefele wrote in a note after the latest developments. "This will allow the international community to keep the door open to diplomatic efforts, and to minimise collateral damage to the European and global economy."

The information contained within is for educational and informational purposes ONLY. It is not intended nor should it be considered an invitation or inducement to buy or sell a security or securities noted within nor should it be viewed as a communication intended to persuade or incite you to buy or sell security or securities noted within. Any commentary provided is the opinion of the author and should not be considered a personalised recommendation. The information contained within should not be a person's sole basis for making an investment decision. Please contact your financial professional before making an investment decision.

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security NamePriceChange (%)Morningstar
Airbus SE130.34 EUR-1.50
BAE Systems PLC1,259.50 GBX-0.98Rating
BP PLC453.05 GBX0.53Rating
Chevron Corp155.07 USD0.64Rating
ConocoPhillips111.10 USD0.24Rating
Eni SpA14.06 EUR0.20Rating
Exxon Mobil Corp115.01 USD1.41Rating
Leonardo SpA Az nom Post raggruppamento22.15 EUR-3.44Rating
Rheinmetall AG496.00 EUR0.45Rating
Shell PLC2,764.00 GBX0.62Rating

About Author

Lukas Strobl  is the editorial manager for EMEA at Morningstar.

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