Investment markets saw wild swings last week as the news flow continues to be dominated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the last 24 hours, the price of Brent oil (the international benchmark) hit just short of $140 per barrel, its highest level since 2008. It has fallen back slightly since but saw the 20%+ jump after US secretary of state Antony Blinken stated that Washington and European allies were considering a total ban on Russian oil imports as the harrowing scenes from Ukraine continue to be broadcasted around the world. Equities are sharply lower this morning as a result.
The impact of sanctions has been felt immediately within Russian assets, with the domestic market suspending trading for the week. Russian equities listed overseas were not spared. For example, Sberbank, which traded at £21.25 last October, was picking up bids at £0.01 at several points last week.
Interestingly the VIX, a measure of expected equity market volatility, closed at 31.98 on 4th March 2022, having closed at 31.99 on 4th March 2020. Two years ago tomorrow, 8th March 2020, marked the end of the longest (11 years) bull market in history as equities fell 20% from their high as a result of the COVID pandemic. Much has happened in markets in the intervening two years, but it illustrates that volatility is never far away.