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Europe and the United States have barred the import of Russian oil to cut off a crucial revenue source for the Kremlin. But the plan to pile pain on President Vladimir Putin, forcing him to reconsider his war in Ukraine, hasn’t worked.
Russia’s government is making just as much money from energy exports as it was before the invasion. Meanwhile, inflation is surging globally, adding to political pressure on heads of state such as US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron.
That’s forcing leaders from top economies who have gathered in Germany for a G7 meeting to consider a new route: slapping price caps on Russian crude.
“The goal here is to starve Russia, starve Putin of his main source of cash and force down the price of Russian oil to help blunt the impact of Putin’s war at the pump,” a senior US administration official told CNN.
Why it’s needed: European customers have pared imports from Russia even before the bloc’s partial embargo takes effect. But an uptick in exports to Asia has helped make up for a large chunk of those losses. China — taking advantage of huge price discounts — imported 2 million barrels of Russian oil per day last month for the first time. India’s imports also spiked, hovering near 900,000 barrels per day in May.
Russian oil export revenues increased by $1.7 billion in May to about $20 billion, according to the International Energy Agency. That’s well above the 2021 average of roughly $15 billion.
The United States could punish countries that continue to do business with Russia. But that would cause further chaos in oil markets, something leaders are desperate to avoid as gasoline prices remain close to record highs.
If China and India had to find replacements for Russian crude, the price of oil could easily top $200 per barrel, Darwei Kung, portfolio manager for commodities at DWS, told me. It’s currently trading above $112 per barrel.
With price caps, barrels of Russian oil could theoretically still make their way onto the global market, thereby avoiding a further supply crunch — but Moscow wouldn’t be able to keep raking in hefty profits.
The Biden administration has been lobbying for this option in recent days, and German officials have indicated an openness to discussing it. But key details remain murky.
What’s missing: How, when and by how much the price of Russian oil could be capped remains to be seen. Officials said the precise mechanism for accomplishing the cap was still being worked out. It would also need broad international support to be effective.
One method could be barring companies based in G7 countries from providing insurance for oil cargoes if buyers paid above a certain price.
Still, Kung warned that adding complexity to energy markets could heighten friction and make transactions more difficult, driving prices higher than they would be otherwise.
“The more complicated the system is, the more likely there are challenges for it,” Kung said. “[The] market system works because in a way it’s very simple. It’s very efficient.”
Stocks rise as investors dial down Fed angst
The stock market has been driven this year by what investors think the Federal Reserve will do next, and whether they believe the central bank will be able to get inflation under control quickly.
As the second quarter comes to a close, some optimism is creeping through. The S&P 500 rallied sharply on Friday, notching its biggest one-day percentage gain in more than two years and snapping a three-week losing streak. The index is up again in premarket trading on Monday.
The jump followed the release of the University of Michigan’s final consumer sentiment reading for June, which dropped to a record low.
But there was a smidgen of good news. Long-run expectations for inflation fell back from a mid-month reading of 3.3% to 3.1%, a slight improvement.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell had said the initial June reading was “eye-catching.”
That could mean the Fed doesn’t need to raise interest rates by another three-quarters of a percentage point at its next meeting. A half percentage point hike would still be aggressive, but wouldn’t be quite as seismic.
Much will hinge on upcoming data, however. The Fed’s favorite measure of inflation arrives on Thursday. If it’s higher than economists predict, that could once again shake up the calculus.
What overturning Roe v. Wade means for the economy
The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is sending political shockwaves across the country as politicians and activists plot their next steps and protesters take to the streets.
That may not seem like a story for journalists who cover the economy and markets. But ending the constitutional right to abortion will have economic consequences, my CNN Business colleague Anneken Tappe reports.
Families that aren’t prepared to raise a child could face financial hardship, while mothers compelled to give birth could struggle to access higher education or move up the socioeconomic ladder. This would affect the labor force and economic output, and could increase the need for government support, according to economists.
“This decision will cause immediate economic pain in 26 states where abortion bans are most likely and where people already face lower wages, less worker power and limited access to health care,” Heidi Shierholz, president of the progressive Economic Policy Institute, said in a statement released Friday. “The fall of Roe will be an additional economic barricade.”
The sentiment has been echoed by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. In testimony before the Senate, she said that restricting women’s reproductive rights would have “very damaging effects on the economy.”
“Roe v. Wade and access to reproductive health care, including abortion, helped lead to increased labor force participation,” Yellen said. “It enabled many women to finish school. That increased their earning potential. It allowed women to plan and balance their families and careers.”
Nike (NKE) reports results after US markets close.
Also today: Durable goods orders for May post at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Coming tomorrow: Investors will comb through US consumer confidence data for June for signs inflation could cause Americans to spend less.