Ukraine Crisis Hasn’t Yet Hit Commodities, But That Could Change

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Not so many years ago, a standoff between the world’s two Cold War superpowers would have had funds in a race to safe havens and commodity prices spiking, but the annexation of Crimea by Russia has left the markets largely unmoved.

Some commentators have put recent firming of commodity prices down in part to worries over Ukraine, but there is little evidence to suggest the political turmoil in and around that country is really having much impact on the market.

An initial fear was that the loss of Crimea would deprive Ukraine of sea ports for imports and exports, but a closer analysis revealed even to the least geographically sophisticated of us that Ukraine enjoys an excellent port at Odessa where the majority of its massive steel and grain exports are shipped out.

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In addition, Crimea has relatively little heavy industry and as such, from a purely economic point of view, has not rocked the country or the region financially – politically and culturally, of course, it is another matter.

So is Ukraine a damp squib in terms of fear factor for metals supplies?

No, and as events have recently been unfolding, the worst could be yet to come.

As Reuters reported this week, pro-Russian separatists on Monday ignored an ultimatum to leave occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine and instead seized more buildings, as the government failed to follow through on a threatened military crackdown and Moscow fairly accurately judged the West is unable to do much about the rising Russian inspired unrest.

Telephone calls between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama will have done nothing to improve that situation, with the US accusing Russia of taking action that was not conducive to a diplomatic solution – well, you don’t say.

Instead, separatists went on to occupy key buildings in 10 other towns and cities in eastern Ukraine. Unlike Crimea, eastern Ukraine is home to large swaths of the country’s heavy industry – in particular, iron and steel, coal, manganese and titanium mining and refining.

So which sectors will be most affected?

Why you should keep an eye on steel and manganese markets, in Part Two.

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