That means an invasion could have a dual effect — slowing economic activity and raising prices.
In the United States, the Federal Reserve is already confronting the highest inflation in 40 years, at 7.5 percent in January, and is expected to start raising interest rates next month. Higher energy prices set off by a conflict in Europe may be transitory but they could feed worries about a wage-price spiral.
“We could see a new burst of inflation,” said Christopher Miller, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and an assistant professor at Tufts University.
Also fueling inflation fears are possible shortages of essential metals like palladium, aluminum and nickel, creating another disruption to global supply chains already suffering from the pandemic, trucker blockades in Canada and shortages of semiconductors.
The price of palladium, for example, used in automotive exhaust systems, mobile phones and even dental fillings, has soared in recent weeks because of fears that Russia, the world’s largest exporter of the metal, could be cut off from global markets. The price of nickel, used to make steel and electric car batteries, has also been jumping.
It’s too early to gauge the precise impact of an armed conflict, said Lars Stenqvist, the chief technology officer of Volvo, the Swedish truck maker. But he added, “It is a very, very serious thing.”
“We have a number of scenarios on the table and we are following the developments of the situation day by day,” Mr. Stenqvist said Monday.
The West has taken steps to blunt the impact on Europe if Mr. Putin decides to retaliate. The United States has ramped up delivery of liquefied natural gas and asked other suppliers like Qatar to do the same.