Putin it to the West

15 Apr

The unfortunate  political and human tragedy in the Ukraine has the potential to cause significant shifts across a number of commodity markets, regardless of whether sanctions are imposed or not. We already know the obvious markets involved: Natural Gas, Nickel, Palladium and titanium but there are a number of ancillary markets and outcomes that could be affected by Mr. Putin’s aggressive actions in the FSU. Russia accounts for roughly 30% of Europes Nat Gas needs so it is clear why the Europeans are treading lightly when it comes to heavy- duty sanctions. We wonder however whether Germany and others are speaking frankly with the U.S. and others about the potential for  a step up in LNG and CNG imports. Such a shift would mark an important dynamic in world Nat Gas pricing and one only assumes that the beneficiary of such a trade shift would be China.It is not hard to envision Mr. Putin extending this policy towards other commodities as well, preferring to strengthen his alliance both politically and economically with China. While Russia has been more than happy to use its petrodollars as a diplomatic weapon, the ability to extend this reach across a wide variety of commodities might seem attractive, particularly if it is with a partner that is highly agnostic as to its politics. While the chances of such an escalation are probably not great, Norilsk  recently was in negotiations to sign a long term supply deal with a Chinese buyer for both platinum and palladium (payable in renminbi). The ramifications of such long term deals are that significant supply is taken off the market permanently, which could cause some sleepless nights among non-asian purchasing managers. Putin sees the intrinsic value of Russia’s stuff, take the advice of Obama’s spokesman who recently suggested that investors not buy Russian Stocks, we concur and instead suggest that investors should be looking to buy what Russia has stockpiled.

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