With all that’s going on—specifically, largest land war and refugee crisis in Europe since, uh, the last largest land war and refugee crisis in Europe, themselves the largest of either category in human history—we know what you’re thinking: Yes, yes, it all looks quite bad and heartbreaking, and frankly quite confusing and mystifying, but what does it mean for me? Specifically, the American me. Well, possibility of nuclear annihilation notwithstanding, pretty much S.O.P.
A range of U.S. data suggests U.S. economic activity picked up in recent weeks. Many Wall Street analysts expect the Labor Department on Friday to report large job gains in February and a further decline in unemployment.
These developments suggest that the U.S. is in a position to withstand the economic shock that might emanate from battlegrounds in Ukraine. Those effects could push U.S. inflation higher from already elevated levels, but the economic expansion appears to be on solid ground.
Of course, if you happen to be Russian, things economic are very much not standard, to the extent that they are operating or there is a procedure of any kind. For while Moscow is doing its damnedest to keep its people from knowing just how bloodily pear-shaped the Ukrainian invasion—not that it would use any of those words or agree with that sentiment!—has gone, it’s being pretty transparent on this front, at least by Putin standards, not that it has much of a choice.
"Russia's economy is experiencing serious blows," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a call with foreign journalists. "But there is a certain margin of safety, there is potential, there are some plans, work is underway…."
The government has ordered exporters to exchange 80% of their foreign currency revenues for rubles, and banned Russian residents from making bank transfers outside the country.
On Tuesday, the government said Putin was working on a decree that would prevent foreign companies exiting their Russian assets — a bid to prevent an exodus that has gathered pace this week. Putin also signed a decree banning people from taking more than $10,000 or equivalent in foreign currency from the country, state news agencies TASS and RIA reported.
Russia's central bank kept stock market trading on the Moscow Exchange suspended for a third day in a row on Wednesday….
Well, in spite of the above assurances, those bits are causing a wee bit of bother to a rather specific set of Americans.
VanEck Russia ETF, a nearly $700 million fund, plans to modify the usual process by which funds create and redeem shares, using a special basket of securities. BlackRock Inc. suspended the creation of new shares of its iShares MSCI Russia ETF, a roughly $105 million fund. Direxion Funds will liquidate and close its leveraged Russia ETF, Direxion Daily Russia Bull 2x Shares, on March 11…. “Even if the [Russian] stock market remains closed for a period of time, we’re likely to see the leading ETFs as good proxies for where the market is headed,” Mr. Rosenbluth said. “The same thing happened in Greece in 2015.”
Speaking of proxies for how things are going:
Shares of Russia’s Sberbank plunged 95% on the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday to trade as low as a penny after the bank announced that it was pulling out of the European market.
And if you happen to be the sort of person who wonders how, in such an environment, Russia might pay its bills, well, it probably won’t. Not that you’ll be able to protect yourself from or otherwise make any money on the increasingly likely default.
International sanctions placed on the country in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine may both trigger credit-default swaps and also prevent the underlying bonds from being used for settlement, according to strategists and investors at Citigroup Inc., CreditSights Inc. and Vanguard Asset Management…. A potential ban on secondary trading of Russian sovereign bonds could create an orphaning event similar to Novo Banco’s, whereby the derivatives become worthless because there’s no underlying debt to insure, Citi said.
In such a bleak and unforgiving world, where, then, can the desperate turn? Oh, no. Please, no. Not that.
Bitcoin has been trading at a premium against the Ukrainian hryvnia on a number of exchanges, both globally and locally, a sign of high demand…. On Binance, there has been a surge in trading volume of bitcoin in exchange for rubles since just before Russia’s invasion began. Between Feb. 20 and 28, about 1,792 bitcoins exchanged hands in the ruble/bitcoin trading pair, compared with only 522 in the nine days before that, according to data on Binance…. Crypto exchanges largely demurred from enacting any voluntary restrictions in Russia.
Well, I mean, you can certainly understand the appeal.
As crypto transforms into an increasingly mainstream industry, even the ostensibly legitimate actors — start-up founders, engineers and investors — insist on anonymity. A growing number of crypto entrepreneurs, many of whom control hundreds of millions of dollars in investor funds, conduct business via mysterious internet avatars scrubbed of identifying information. Some venture capital firms are backing founders without ever learning their real names.
Just don’t put a “Dmitri” in your handle and you can just forget about sanctions. At least, that’s the worry of those who’d probably like to put an end to the whole ugly experiment in the first place.
“Given the need to ensure the efficacy and integrity of our sanctions program against Russia and other adversaries, we are seeking information on the steps Treasury is taking to enforce sanctions compliance by the cryptocurrency industry,” wrote the lawmakers, all members of the Senate Banking Committee…. “These reports are even more troubling because of analyses that suggest that the cryptocurrency industry may not be fulfilling its responsibility to comply with U.S. sanctions,” the senators wrote.
Well, we might not be tracking all of the digital money flowing in and out of rogue states at the moment, but thanks to Elon Musk’s teenage bête noir, we can track where the sanctioned are going.
[Jack] Sweeney, 19 years old, said that he made the new Twitter bots—@RUOligarchJets and @Putinjet—over the weekend after Russia invaded Ukraine…. His new Twitter bots focused on Russia use the same technology as the one that tracks the jet Mr. Sweeney believes is owned by Mr. Musk, he said.
U.S. Positioned to Withstand Economic Shock From Ukraine Crisis [WSJ]
Russia says its economy is taking 'serious blows' as isolation grows [CNN Business]
Moscow Exchange won't resume stock trading on Wednesday – cenbank [Reuters]
Russian ETFs Offer Hint of Where the Moscow Exchange Is Headed [WSJ]
Russia’s Sberbank collapses 95% on London stock exchange as it exits Europe [CNBC]
Sanctions significantly increase chance of Russia international debt default, analysts warn [Reuters]
Russia Sanctions Put $41 Billion of Default Insurance at Risk [Bloomberg]
Bitcoin Price Jumps as Demand in Ukraine and Russia Booms [WSJ]
Millions for Crypto Start-Ups, No Real Names Necessary [NYT]
Senators want to know if Russia can use cryptocurrencies to skirt sanctions. [NYT]
Teen Who Tracks Elon Musk’s Private Jet Is Now Monitoring Russian Oligarchs, Vladimir Putin [WSJ]
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