Hedge funds and banks play winners and losers in latest Ukraine fallout
If someone is losing money on something, chances are someone, somewhere is making money.
The latest fiscal yin-yang opened on Wall Street last week, where several hedge funds that made commodity bets are winning big amid geopolitical certainty of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, several banks are consuming billions in writedowns as they retreat from the Russian economy.
less than zero
There was a brief period in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, when a barrel of oil cost next to nothing. It was the lowest in a difficult decade for the energy sector, and there was little cause for optimism. But then economies reopened, increasing demand for oil. And then Russia waged an unprovoked war against Ukraine, increasing uncertainty about the supply of oil and other important raw materials.
S&P 500 energy stocks are up 37% in 2022 and U.S. crude oil prices topped $130 a barrel last week, the highest since 2008. Prices for aluminum, wheat, palladium and nickel all hit record highs this month. The result turned into a generational investment opportunity for some hedge funds:
- Soroban Capital, a $10 billion fund in New York, has earned several hundred million dollars from commodities trading since February. It is one of several Wall Street funds, including Castle Hook Partners and Pilgrim Global, that have gained around 30% through the end of February betting on the strategy, according to insiders who spoke to The Wall Street Journal.
- Funds entirely dedicated to energy achieved equally extraordinary figures; Houston’s Bison Interests, a $50 million hedge fund that buys into junior oil and gas companies, was up 30% this year through the end of February.
Collection: International banks, meanwhile, are not in the game. Owed $121 billion by Russian entities, according to the Bank for International Settlements, lenders began to pull out knowing they might never see those funds again. Goldman Sachs, which had $650 million in credit exposure to Russia last December, became the first U.S. bank to pull out last week, followed by JPMorgan Chase. French banks are among the most exposed: Societe Generale had $21 billion of exposure to Russia at the end of last year and BNP Paribas $3.3 billion, enough to make you say Ouch (that means Ouch).