Investment Insights Podcast – Unrest in Ukraine and Investment Implications

Stuart Quint, Investment Insights PodcastStuart P. Quint, CFA, Senior Investment Manager and International Strategist

Stuart joins us this week to share some comments on the developing situation in Ukraine and its impact on investors.  Click the play button below to listen in to his podcast, or read a summarized version of his thoughts below.

Podcast recorded March 3, 2014:

Ukraine’s struggles are overwhelming. Political, economic, and now military challenges confront the country. Politically and militarily speaking, the U.S. and the European Union (EU) have few tools at this time and modest willpower to oppose Russian intentions in Ukraine. And given that the ruling government is merely a caretaker for the May elections, it seems unlikely there will be a bailout package offered by the International Money Fund (IMF) any time soon. Default on existing international and local obligations appears likely in the near term.

Russia is not without its own constraints, though, as the Russian economy is directly tied to Europe. Three out of every four dollars of foreign direct investment in Russia come from Europe.[1]  The EU also remains Russia’s most important trading partner with 55% of Russian exports destined for Europe.[2]

Let’s take a look at the potential scenarios: (1) Russian annexation of the Crimea, (2) negotiated settlement with later elections that would most likely bring about a grand coalition government, probably with leanings toward Moscow, and (3) military escalation (civil war, Russian forces occupy eastern Ukraine, either of which results in a smaller Ukraine or outright disintegration as a sovereign state).

So what investment implications might this have? (1) The near term is helpful for fixed income, with commodities benefiting from any disruption of supply (oil, gas) and flight to safety (gold), and (2) negative impact most of all for European (Russia supplies 30% of European gas supply[3]) and emerging markets (mainly Russia, but also other markets with the need to import capital could suffer from currency weakness and higher interest rates demanded by investors).

A negotiated settlement involving recognition of Russian claims in exchange for a roadmap to stabilize the rest of Ukraine would reverse many of these trends.  Indeed, a similar situation occurred when Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008, but the crisis in Ukraine has potentially more serious implications given its proximity to Western Europe and that it carries a large population of over 45 million people.[4]

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change.

Not Your Average Town

WilsonTom Wilson, CFA, Brinker Capital, Managing Director,
Institutional Investments and Private Client Group
& Senior Investment Manager

Midland, TX is not an average U.S. town. Midland is an oil town. Flying over the area, one will notice a landscape littered with oil pumps. Not surprisingly, the sizable impact of oil and natural gas continues to benefit the local economy.

As I ate lunch in town at a crowded restaurant on a Sunday afternoon, I witnessed a crew of “mudders” stop in to grab some food and then hastily jump back into their trucks, destined for the next oil pump.  The fact is, unemployment is not an issue in this town. Midland currently boasts a 3.1% unemployment rate, strikingly less than the U.S. average of 7.6% (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).  In speaking with the locals, the demand for teachers, doctors, and construction workers is quite significant.  Everywhere I looked, it seemed like the town was flourishing.

According to Strategas Research Partners, the United States is the second largest producer of oil in the world today with a 12% market share. We narrowly trail the Middle-Eastern country of Saudi Arabia, who enjoys a 13% share. Surprised? The International Energy Agency projects that the United States could become the largest producer by 2017. One can’t help but wonder about the immense potential we harbor as a country in the field of energy. The impact it could have on our nation in terms of growth, defense, employment, and tax revenue is profound. Let’s hope that in the near future thriving economic towns, just like Midland, won’t be so hard to come by!

6.12.13_Wilson_Midland

A horsehead oil pump in Midland, TX as seen first hand by our very own, Tom Wilson.