Prices of benchmark oil futures trading in both London and New York are up more than 45% since the start of the year and more than 20% since a week before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, reflecting both oil's greater perceived risk and concerns about restrictions on supply.
How long high energy prices persist and to what degree will be vital to informing whether our views move from our baseline case to a downside of even slower growth and higher inflation. For conditions to deteriorate to the point of ushering in a recession, oil prices would need to climb to a range of $130 to $150 a barrel for several quarters and financial conditions would need to tighten broadly, according to the Vanguard economics team's analysis. Vanguard foresees developed-market inflation averaging more than 8% for all of 2022 in such a case.
Growth and inflation effects would be felt more acutely in the euro area, which gets 40% of its natural gas and 25% of its oil from Russia,¹ than in the United Kingdom or the United States, which use much less Russian energy.
Central bank policy decisions hang in the balance
The developments in Ukraine present central banks with a pertinent challenge: Do they continue down the path toward tighter monetary policy to fight even higher inflation, or do they pause and take stock given the new risks to growth? Vanguard currently doesn't expect recent developments to materially affect U.S. Federal Reserve and Bank of England policy stances. The Fed's chair told 'Congress on March 2 that a hike in the federal funds rate target at the Fed's March 16 meeting remained appropriate, though he did acknowledge concern over events unfolding in Ukraine.
The European Central Bank (ECB), meanwhile, meets sooner, on March 10. Vanguard hasn't changed its expectation for a late-2022 ECB rate hike, though we'll be watching developments closely. "Our view is that recent events and the accompanying uncertainty have the potential to make the ECB more cautious," Raithatha said. "This will skew the balance of risks toward the Governing Council delaying its normalization of monetary policy. The ECB will also stand ready to provide additional liquidity should the proper functioning of markets be impaired."