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DAILY BRIEFING

A Nabiullina of all trades

Written by Maria Julia Pieraccioni, senior associate
Edited by Adam Shaw, associate partner
7 March 2022

Good morning,

Before there was Janet Yellen, there was Elvira Nabiullina.
 
Appointed in 2013 as governor of the Bank of Russia, Nabiullina became the first woman to run the central bank of a G8 country, before Russia was ejected from the group in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea.
 
Nabiullina is a woman who, by most accounts (there aren’t many if you happen to be one of Vladimir Putin’s most trusted confidantes), has shown her resolve more than once during her time as governor. She is credited by many to have pulled the Russian economy out of the recessionary mire that it was plunged into by the annexation of Crimea and being the architect of Russia’s financial bounce back after 2014. Accolades from the financial world and beyond become her, and she regularly makes Forbes’ “Power Women” list, including most recently in 2021 when she was ranked the 60th most powerful woman in the world. 
 
However, Nabiullina’s past woes pale in comparison to what she is about to embark on: a Hail Mary pass to save the Russian economy from the deepest of financial abysses.
 
Last week, Nabiullina appeared in front of a broadcast press conference to announce the central bank’s counter measures to the economic sanctions imposed by most western countries. Wearing all black—in what some speculated was a nod to the coming death of the Russian economy—Nabiullina admitted that the country was “dealing with a completely non-standard situation” under “conditions that have fundamentally changed”. The central bank’s interest rate is set to more than double to a record 20% to curb rising inflation, while trading on the Moscow stock exchange has been suspended. In addition, Putin authorised capital controls that compel “Russian companies and individuals to sell 80% of their foreign currency revenue, ban Russians from transferring foreign currency abroad and forbid taking out any new foreign loans”.
 
These measures dumbfound those who have known Nabiullina to be a silent but meticulous planner, who spent years patiently shoring up a $643 billion “war chest” as part of the “Fortress Russia” strategy aimed at insulating the country from economic sanctions. However, the strategy has an Achilles heel, one Putin himself wasn’t expecting: the fortress will only hold if sanctions are unilaterally imposed by the US, as it comprises a system of multilateral agreements with every major bank elsewhere. Nabiullina was unprepared for a unified front from the west, and when it came to playing the hand she was dealt, the fortress folded.
 
Nabiullina’s personal views on the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are unknown, and I suspect if they were to be, we would not still be talking about her as governor. In fact, many anticipate she will be unable to complete her five-year term next June if she does not find a way to rally an increasingly economically isolated Russia.
 
As is the case in much of history, here is a woman damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.

News

On Saturday, Russia broke a temporary ceasefire in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol and started shelling civilians who were attempting to flee via an exit corridor out of the city. The evacuation was suspended minutes after it began and civilians went back into hiding, despite the city suffering from lack of food and emergency medicine, as well as power and water. (£)
 
Demonstrators flocked to Trafalgar Square in London on Saturday to protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s regime. The #StandWithUkraine protest was organised hastily in response to a failed ceasefire, in which Russia refused to shop shelling the exit route of Mariupol while civilians attempted to escape.
 
Rough sleepers will have their data shared with the Home Office under a controversial programme that could lead to the deportation of non-UK citizens. The Home Office’s Rough Sleeping Support Service (RSSS) has come under fire for deporting an undisclosed number of rough sleepers, after a freedom of information request prompted councils and charities to reveal the number of rough sleepers whose personal data has been acquired without their consent.

Business and economy

Credit card companies Visa and Mastercard said on Saturday they would suspend operations in Russia. The decision comes after the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, urged credit card companies to join in the ongoing corporate boycott in the hope that isolating the Russian economy even further it will deter its military advances in Ukraine. (£)
 
French luxury giants LVMH, Hermes, Kering and Chanel have temporarily shut down their shops in Russia. Although the firms have been left out of sanctions introduced by western governments, many have found it hard to continue operations in Russia due to the measures introduced by the UK, EU and US.
 
Facebook and Instagram are blocking Russian state-owned companies RT and Sputnik in the UK, following a letter by secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport Nadine Dorries to Meta, Twitter and TikTok. Meta has said that suspending access in the UK is a move consistent with the already restricted access to RT and Sputnik across the EU. However, Twitter and TikTok have refused to reply one way or another as they review the legalities of RT and Sputnik’s restriction from their platforms.

Columns of note

John Gapper reminds us of the importance of a war’s visual mapping when it comes to realising a conflict may be closer than what it appears, both historically and literally, in this week’s FT segment. For two decades, western Europe has been untouched by conflict, save the tragic consequences of war: refugees and asylum seekers, a shared moral tragedy and the effects of war on financial markets destabilising our day-to-day. Gapper argues that our access to Google Maps and aerial satellite images should give us indication for how and why wars erupt and, in that realisation, we should know that “mapmaking is not a neutral objective pursuit, but one laden with power”. (£)
 
Elsewhere, in this week’s edition of The Economist, the team explores the effects of the Russo-Ukrainian war on emerging markets. Threatening to “lengthen a list of woes”, the war may have an even worse knock-on effect on most of the globe’s emerging markets. The symptoms will become clear: first, a tightening of global liquidity conditions, specifically of the dollar, to which most emerging markets’ currencies are pegged. Next will come an exacerbation of an already unsustainable inflation that will wipe out gains from commodities exports, which make up the majority of emerging markets’ GDP. The third and last symptom to look out for is the re-pricing of a country’s risk premiums if it’s seen sympathising with states engaged in foreign aggression, adding a moral layer to geopolitics. (£)

Markets

The week ahead

Welcome to International Women’s Day week and a summary of the week ahead.
 
The week kicks off on Monday with the trial of three former Minneapolis police officers charged in relation with the death of George Floyd in May 2020 in the US, and the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting in Vienna.
 
On Tuesday, while the rest of the world celebrates International Women’s Day, Boris Johnson will be deep in talks with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban in London, where Johnson will be hosting the leaders of the V4 group of countries – Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Markets will turn a keen eye to Apple, which will stage its spring product launch event and to the Eurozone’s Q4 GDP data. The OECD publishes its interim economic outlook.
 
On Wednesday, as South Koreans flock to elect their next president, investors and analysts turn to full-year results from Adidas, Cathay Pacific, Continental, Legal and General, Prudential and Vivendi.
 
Thursday will see the European Central Bank governing council meet in Frankfurt, as well as full-year results from fashion brands Boohoo, Brunello Cucinelli, Hugo Boss and Tod’s amongst others.
 
Friday marks the second anniversary of the World Health Organisation declaring Covid-19 a pandemic.

What’s happening today?

Final Results
Clarkson         
Mti Wireless   
Downing Renewa.     
 
Interim Dividend Payment Date
Paypoint         
Henderson Smaller Companies Trust

Intl Economic Announcement
(20:00) Consumer Credit (US)
(07:00) Current Account (GER)
(10:00) Retail Sales (EU)
(07:00) Balance of Trade (GER)
(07:00) Factory Orders (GER)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

An off shoot of Newton’s apple tree was blown down by storm Eunice. The original tree was blown down by a storm in 1820. (source: @qikipedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (including Topical Questions)
 
Motion
Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill: Allocation of Time
 
Legislation
All stages of the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill
 
Adjournment
Delivery charges in Scotland

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Various
 
Legislation
Health and Care Bill – report stage (day 3)
 
Orders and regulations
Various

Scottish parliament 

No business scheduled.  

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