Posted May 24, 2023
By Matt Insley
Starving In the Light
“Are you funded by Putin?” a reader wonders after we disparaged Ukraine President Zelensky’s latest round of fundraising.
It’s not the first time I’ve been accused of being a Russian stooge, by the way. Nor, I suspect, will it be the last. Speaking of…
“Can’t believe I woke up to reading your missive,” writes Bill K. “You really could use some perspective on this. Just imagine, for even a moment, that you lived in Ukraine. Surrender, for what? To have a despot make his rules for you and your children, in perpetuity? And to feel he could do it elsewhere at his choosing?
“And to have a virtual dictator criminally bomb you and your children into death and destruction? And then, where would the despot stop? What certainty would you have that Putin would stop at Ukraine? Ukraine is doing the rest of our planetary civilization a favor, so large it can’t be measured by dollars.”
Bill K. is right: It’s a matter of perspective. And perspective is complicated. As is the centuries-long relationship between Ukraine and Russia. As is Zelensky himself.
One thing, however, doesn’t seem so complicated to me… War or peace? Which is preferable (particularly in light of nuclear escalation)?
The what-about-the-children argument goes beyond Ukraine’s children.
More knock-on effects from the war in Ukraine? Read on…
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Your Rundown for Wednesday, May 24, 2023...
Out of the frying pan into the fire.
After pulling through winter’s energy crisis — thanks, in no small part, to comparatively mild temperatures — Europe is now suffering a food crisis.
“Europeans are facing a food-price explosion that is changing diets and forcing consumers across the region to tighten their belts,” says a Wall Street Journal article this morning.
Although energy prices and, theoretically, inflation are cooling in the region, food prices are overheating.
In the UK alone, where the government has provided enormous energy subsidies for households, April inflation numbers subsided; at the same time, food prices soared almost 20%.
The following chart compares food prices (year-over-year) among G7 nations — four of which are in Europe. Notice particularly what’s happened since the start of 2023…
Source: Wall Street Journal
“In France, households have cut their food purchases by more than 10% since the invasion of Ukraine, while their purchases of energy have fallen by 4.8%,” the WSJ notes.
“In Germany, sales of food fell 1.1% in March from the previous month, and were down 10.3% from a year earlier, the largest drop since records began in 1994.”
Italy appears to be the least affected European G7 nation, but that’s only because the “Bel Paese” government has suspended sales taxes on food items.
“The cost of living crisis isn’t ending, it is just entering a new phase,” says CEO Torsten Bell of UK research firm Resolution Foundation. Something Bank of England Gov. Andrew Bailey calls a “fourth shock” from inflation.
Presumably, energy was Europe’s third inflation shock… and food’s the fourth. While energy prices are cheaper, food is, in some instances, prohibitively expensive.
So, Europeans can now heat their frying pans — in well-lit kitchens — but the frying pans are empty.
Market Rundown for Wednesday, May 24, 2023
S&P 500 futures are down 0.35% to 4,140.
Oil is up 1.40% to $73.92 for a barrel of WTI.
Gold is up 0.50% to $1,984 per ounce.
And Bitcoin is down 1.8% to $26,700.
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