As we consider the tensions driving recent market movements, a Korean folk saying seems apt: “When whales fight, the shrimp’s back is broken.” The idea is that bystanders get hurt when big folks duke it out. What are the tensions? Who are the bystanders? Let’s discuss. The invasion of Ukraine or Peacekeeping Mission (as some refer to it) has occurred. What this leads to, how involved or bloody it gets, and which country wins, is all yet to be determined. I believe I can say, very few civilians ever win during these conflicts. Lives are lost, families are separated and a struck with grief, and hatred towards either side does not subside. The U.S. has closed the embassy in Kyiv and warned of a dramatic buildup of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine.1 As of last night, reports of Russian missel strikes in Kyiv and Odessa have been reported. It’s unclear whether Russia is willing to diplomatically resolve security concerns about Ukraine joining NATO.2 And now for the life of my I can’t comprehend how anyone believes an aggressive attack against Ukraine will be overlooked. However, a ground war between NATO and Russia would be extremely damaging. We will see in the coming days just how far Putin and Russia will push their mission. As well as what response if any NATO will provide. That seesaw between high tension and relief is likely to add a lot of volatility to markets as investors digest the latest news. We typically see more volatility and market uncertainty at the beginning stages of conflict vs. the end. The Federal Reserve may aggressively raise interest rates to fight inflation.3 With inflation at historic highs, some Fed officials worry that the central bank’s credibility — AKA, their ability to manage inflation and employment — is on the line. Rate hikes are coming in 2022, but how many and how quickly? That’s up for debate by the Federal Open Market Committee next month. Fed “hawks” want to raise rates quickly to try to bring inflation under control and increase consumer confidence and trust. Fed “doves” want to carefully raise rates and watch the data to avoid damaging growth or spooking markets. These are big decisions with big consequences for us, the economy, and markets. While FOMC meetings are often dry affairs, the next one looks to have as much drama as an episode of Succession. Stay tuned. The best advice I can give, remain disciplined in both your investing thoughts and actions. Bottom line: there are a lot of factors driving market movements, so we can expect to see plenty of volatility in the weeks to come. Given the Fed and geopolitical tensions at play, a pullback or correction would not be surprising, either. Most indexes are reaching 10% correction levels from all-time highs. And now with a possible Russian/Ukrainian conflict, it may teeter them into correction levels. We should keep in mind; these corrections happen on average every few years and since we didn’t have a correction in 2021, I guess we were due. What can we do when we’re facing major events we can’t control? Take a deep breath, be grateful for all the good in our lives, and focus on our strategy. (And email me with questions or concerns.) Let’s hope for peace and clarity in the weeks to come. We’ve started reviewing more client portfolios to make sure our risk levels remain appropriate and will reach out as needed. Be well, Jeremy Ftacek, AIF® Ftacek Financial Services, LLC. www.FtacekFinancial.com
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