about 2 years ago • 3 mins
Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Thursday, sending shockwaves through global markets.
What does this mean?
The West has been bracing for a Russian invasion of Ukraine for some time now, and things became even tenser on Monday when Russia recognized the independence of – and ordered troops to enter – two separatist Ukrainian regions. Turns out that was just the amuse-bouche: Russia ordered a full-scale invasion of its neighbor on Thursday.
This latest move crashed global stock markets and wiped a third of the value off Russia’s stocks in a single day – the biggest drop for the country on record. The Russian ruble fell too, hitting an all-time low against the US dollar. Gold and government bonds, meanwhile, soared as investors rushed to buy safe-haven assets, along with the prices of European natural gas (up 30%) and oil, which hit $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014.
Why should I care?
For markets: The domino effect.
The problem is a global one, but it’ll take a particularly serious toll on Europe – not least because Russia is the biggest supplier of natural gas to the region. Natural gas is used to generate both electricity and heat, which means Europeans are now facing much higher energy bills over the next few months. That, in turn, will leave them with less cash to spend, which could ultimately derail the region’s much-needed economic recovery.
The bigger picture: The ECB’s in a pickle.
If economic growth does start to falter, the European Central Bank would usually just cut interest rates to encourage more borrowing and more spending. But the central bank’s interest rate is already at 0%, which doesn’t exactly leave much room for another cut. And if anything, the ECB should arguably be raising interest rates: it’s one of the best ways to counteract inflation, which energy prices are almost bound to push to yet another record high in the next month or two.
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Alibaba reported worse-than-expected results on Thursday, after the ecommerce giant was stabbed in the back by someone it thought it could trust…
What does this mean?
Alibaba’s own government has been punishing it in the last year, cracking down on the company alongside a host of other tech giants. That, as it’s been trying to sell products to shoppers who are shopping less, and as rival companies like Pinduoduo, JD.com, and TikTok-owner ByteDance sit hot on its heels. There was no rising from the ashes here: Alibaba’s revenue grew by a worse-than-expected 10% last quarter compared to the same time the year before. That’s its slowest since the company listed on the stock market in 2014, and a long way from the 40%-plus growth it boasted before China brought down its iron fist…
Why should I care?
For markets: Hits from all angles.
Those crackdowns have now spread beyond the tech sector to industries like education and property. You’d think Alibaba would be relieved with the shift in focus, but it’s an investor as well as an ecommerce business. And since it’s so heavily invested in those areas, its portfolio has taken a serious bruising. That’s a big part of why the company’s profit fell 74% last quarter from the same time the year before.
The bigger picture: Misery loves company.
The crackdowns also forced fintech giant Ant Group – a third of which is owned by Alibaba – to call off what would’ve been the world’s biggest initial public offering back in 2020. That means Alibaba’s been left holding some toxic shares: Ant Group was caught up in a corruption scandal last month, and Bloomberg reported this week that China’s ordering the biggest state-owned banks to see if their finances are tied up with the firm. If those businesses are forced to cut those ties, it could seriously hurt Ant Group’s bottom line – and Alibaba’s too.
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