Crude oil and gold are off to the races this morning amid rising geopolitical concerns. More in a minute. Stocks, for their part, are flattish along with the dollar. Treasuries are up.
One thing helping the short end of the yield curve: The “No ‘I’ PPI” report. The Producer Price Index dropped 0.1% on the headline and was unchanged on the core in December. Both readings were weaker than expected, suggesting there was little wholesale inflation last month.
Tensions in the Middle East heated up overnight after the US, UK, and other allies launched coordinated attacks on Houthi rebel facilities in Yemen. Our military attacked radar, missile, and drone sites using fighter jets and missiles launched from the ground, the Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, and a submarine. Crude oil prices spiked on the news, with US WTI futures recently trading around $75 a barrel and the global benchmark Brent crude oil contract breaching $80.
We’ll see what that does for energy shares, which have underperformed in the last year. The Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLE) is off about 6% in the previous 12 months, compared with a 22% rise for the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY). Oil itself is down about 7% in the same timeframe. Be sure to check out my just-released MoneyShow MoneyMasters Podcast segment with Carley Garner, by the way. She is a commodities market expert and talked quite a bit about her outlook for oil and energy investments in it.
XLE, SPY, Crude Oil Chart (1-Year % Change)
In other news, the Bitcoin ETF rollout was a smashing success – at least by some measures. Ten ETFs that track the cryptocurrency began trading yesterday, and more than $4.6 billion worth of their shares changed hands during the day, according to the Wall Street Journal. Still, some financial firms refused to let customers trade the new funds out of suitability or compliance concerns. They reportedly included Vanguard and trading platforms operated by Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC).
Finally, we have a new megamerger in the infrastructure financing space. BlackRock (BLK) said it would buy privately held Global Infrastructure Partners for $12.5 billion. GIP manages $100 billion in assets, investing in large infrastructure projects like ports, airports, oil and gas projects and pipelines, and renewable energy facilities. The enormous deal comes as investors are increasingly looking to alternative investments and strategies for greater income, better returns, and enhanced diversification – and asset managers are taking steps to better serve them.