Stocktake: Investors grapple with stagflation and nuclear risk

Energy prices nose-dived later in the week but uncertainty remains elevated

Soaring energy and commodity costs mean talk of 1970s-type stagflation – that is, rising inflation and a stagnant or recessionary economy – is hard to escape right now.

Last week was the "biggest week on record" for commodity markets, noted Deutsche Bank's Jim Reid. The Russia-related oil price spike was greater than anything seen since late 1973, when oil prices tripled; gas prices increased by a "much greater amount than at any time in history"; the broader pace of the commodity rally is "in many cases now beyond that seen in the 1970s".

The rolling three-month move in Thomson Reuters’ core commodity index, added Reid, was only just below the highest ever recorded.

Energy prices nose-dived later in the week but uncertainty remains elevated. Without an orderly end to the Russia-Ukraine war, says influential economist Mohamed El-Erian, market dislocations will intensify and the risk of global recession will grow.


Even bulls are somewhat apocalyptic. BCA Research says there may be a market “freak-out” due to the possibility of nuclear war. Your portfolio becomes irrelevant if that happens, but a major rally may ensue if it doesn’t.

Thus, investors should ignore existential risk. As BCA memorably puts it: “The risk of Armageddon has risen dramatically. Stay bullish on stocks over a 12-month horizon.”