Market Update 02/21/22

Katerina Berezovsky

Volatility persisted from Feb. 15 to Feb. 21 as investors grappled with ambiguous statements relating to Russian invasion and the uncertain landscape of inflation.

The stock market rallied Tuesday following optimistic claims by Russia’s Ministry of Defense that Russia would withdraw troops from the Ukrainian border. The news advanced major indexes, with the S&P 500 gaining 1.6%, the Nasdaq Composite gaining 2.5% and the Dow Jones gaining 1.22%. Bond yields reacted by advancing above 2% followed by a 3.3% drop in the price of Brent Crude to $93.28 a barrel.

The optimism, unfortunately, transformed to pessimism the following day as White House and NATO officials declared Russia’s assertions to be false. Rather than withdraw troops, Biden officials stated that as many as 7,000 troops joined the existing 100,000 Russian troops around the Ukrainian border.

Markets reacted to the news with a sell-off Wednesday morning which reversed later in the day, leaving the major indexes largely unchanged from the previous day closing. The rebound occurred following the release of the Federal Reserve’s January policy meeting minutes, re-affirming the Fed’s plan to deflate their asset holdings and hike up interest rates.

The positive market reaction reflected the anticlimactic nature of the minutes. While investors anticipated minutes consisting of new and hawkish information, they were surprised to read that the Fed would be making decisions on a meeting-by-meeting basis.

“On balance, there was nothing in the minutes that suggested the Fed would be more aggressive than what the market has already priced in,”  Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist for Allianz Investment Management said.

The market rebound on Wednesday was erased on Thursday with all major indexes declining. Most notable was the Dow Jones dropping 1.8%, its steepest one-day loss of 2022. The declines carried into Friday, with the S&P 500 retreating 1.6% for the week, the Nasdaq Composite down 1.8% for the week and the Dow Jones down 1.9% for the week.

“You’ve got this backdrop of inflation, lack of confidence in central banks in being ahead of the curve, a nonorderly recovery in the global economy and supply lines and consumer demand, and all that coming together is creating volatility. Potential escalation between Russia and Ukraine is the cherry on the top,” David Coombs, the head of multi-asset investments at Rathbone Investment Management, told The Wall Street Journal.

Over the past few weeks, markets have been moving in tandem with headlines, advancing at any signs of optimism and dropping at any sign of uncertainty. Many investors expect the volatility to persist until there is a way to gauge the severity of interest rate hikes, the longevity of inflation and the implications of Russian invasion.

Until then, investors will remain watchful for any new and decisive information.