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Commodities like oil, precious metals, and wheat soaring after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine

Business Insider US
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a "special military operation" in Ukraine on Thursday morning.
Alexei Nikolsky/Associated Press
  • Benchmark Brent crude oil futures passed $100 a barrel for the first time in seven years after Russia invaded Ukraine.
  • Aluminum, nickel, palladium, platinum, and wheat all surged as well, with some reaching all-time highs.
  • Russia and Ukraine are major commodities exporters, so a supply disruption could drive up prices.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The commodity complex soared on Thursday, after Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which drove oil to $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014 and other key raw materials to all-time and multi-year highs.

Aluminum gained 4.36% to briefly hit a record-high of $3,492 a tonne, while US wheat futures gained 5.90% to reach $926 per 5,000 bushels. Ukraine is a major exporter of aluminum and, together with Russia, accounts for almost a third of the global wheat market. 

Gold, nickel, palladium, and platinum were also all up sharply on Thursday. Gold, which is often seen as a 'safe haven' asset that investors buy in times of crisis, was up 1.85% to $1,945 per ounce. Palladium, which is used in the production of catalytic converters, rose 6.6% to $2,600 an ounce. Nickel, a key ingredient in steel-making, gained 5.6% to trade at $25,755 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange, its highest in 11 years. 

Putin announced a "special military operation" in Ukraine in a televised speech, promising "instant" repercussions if anyone tried to take on Russia. Within minutes, multiple explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, as well as the major cities Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Mariupol, and Odesa.

Russia was the world's third-largest oil exporter as of 2020. The post-invasion price disruption stoked fears that US inflation, which is already at a 40-year high of 7.5%, could turn red-hot in the coming months.

"The market reaction to these developments has been seismic," Deutsche Bank's head of global fundamental credit strategy Jim Reid said. "A significant way the events in Ukraine will affect the rest of the world is regarding inflation, and even before we saw $100 a barrel oil overnight, that relentless rise in commodities showed no sign of abating."

Oil's surge above $100 a barrel represented "certainly stagflation prices", according to Markets.com's chief market analyst Neil Wilson. That scenario refers to a crippling combination of sky-high inflation and sluggish growth.

Russia also dominates the precious metals trade, exporting 45.6% of the world's palladium, and 15.1% of the world's platinum, and 9.2% of the world's gold, according to brokerage ADM Investor Services.

"Gold spiked to $1,950, its highest since the end of 2020. Bitcoin plunged 5% to $35,000," Wilson added. "[I] think we are finding out which of the two is the real haven."

Strategists added that the combination of soaring commodity prices and struggling stock markets put the Federal Reserve in an incredibly challenging position. If the US central bank hikes interest rates, it will suppress inflation but badly hit growth stocks.

"Oil is probably up $10 or $15 a barrel because of the conflict... That will probably add, if sustained, about 30 or 40 cents a gallon to unleaded," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, told CNBC on Tuesday. "My sense is it really complicates the Fed's efforts to rein in inflation and get back to full employment."

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