The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) went for a wild ride today, falling sharply in the morning after Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said investors needed to reduce reliance on low interest rates. But once news broke that Russian President Vladimir Putin had withdrawn troops from the Ukrainian boarder and recommended a delay in a separatist vote on independence, the market breathed a collective sigh of relief and the Dow was up 0.6% in late trading.
Turmoil in Ukraine has been ongoing for months, and there may be no sector more affected than energy. Russia is a major exporter and also a major partner with ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) .
Big oil stocks climb on Putin news
The back and forth between the U.S. and Russia over Moscow's actions in Ukraine has been contentious, and increasing sanctions on Putin's political allies are leaving U.S. companies caught in the crossfire.
ExxonMobil has been particularly interested in what's unfolding within Russia and Ukraine because it has drilling rights to 11.4 million net acres in Russia's Arctic. The company's deal is a venture with state-owned Rosneft, which is headed by Igor Sechin, a target of Obama administration sanctions. BP (NYSE: BP ) is also caught in the middle as a 20% owner of Rosneft, further complicating the Big Oil alliance.
There has been worry over the past few weeks that the Putin government could retaliate to sanctions by limiting U.S. private-sector involvement in Russia, which would have been a huge blow to participating companies. Potential sanctions limiting Rosneft's energy exports to Europe could have hurt that company, and by extension BP.
The ups and downs of the Russia-Ukraine conflict can be difficult to interpret day to day, but I think it's key to understand that no one involved wants this to escalate into any sort of war. For ExxonMobil and BP, that should be the overriding takeaway from today, especially now that Putin appears to be backing down to some degree. Long term, that's good for Big Oil.
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