NATO Disputes Russian Withdrawals, an Alarming Yield Curve, and More Moving Today's Market

Russia continues its military buildup at the Ukrainian border, NATO said, disputing Russia's claims that it's removing troops. The rally in U.S. stocks stopped, with major indexes slipping after yesterday's surges.

Economists will be mining the minutes from the January FOMC meeting—due later today from the Fed—for clues as to how aggressive the central bank will act in its efforts to curb inflation.

Key Takeaways

  • Russia continues adding troops at the border, NATO said, disputing Russia's claims that it is removing troops.
  • The rally in U.S. stocks halted, while oil climbed.
  • Stock declines came despite stronger-than-expected January retail sales.

Stocks surged yesterday, snapping a three-day losing streak, on indications tensions between Russia and Ukraine were easing. The Dow rose 1.2%, while the S&P 500 gained 1.6%, and the Nasdaq shot up 2.5%.  

Later today, the Federal Reserve will release minutes from its January policy meeting. Investors will look for clues on how aggressively the Fed may hike interest rates to cool inflation at its next meeting in March.

Companies reporting their latest financial results today include American International Group Inc. (AIG), Applied Materials Inc. (AMAT), Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO), Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. (HLT), Kraft Heinz Inc. (KHC), NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA), and Shopify Inc (SHOP).

This morning, the Census Bureau reported retail sales jumped 3.8% in January, beating expectations of a 2% increase. Excluding autos, retail sales rose 3.3%, also above estimates.

retail trade

 The Federal Reserve is likely to report industrial production rose 0.4% in January, following a drop of 0.1% in the month before. Capacity utilization for the manufacturing sector, a measure of how fully firms are using their resources, likely gained 0.3 percentage points to 76.8% in January.

The National Association of Home Builders also releases its Housing Market Index for February later today. Economists forecast a reading of 83, about even with the January data, as home builders remain bullish on the near-term prospects of the housing market, despite supply constraints.

Oil prices rose to $93.71 a barrel, with traders watching Russia/Ukraine developments. Crude, which has gained steadily after starting the year less than $80 a barrel, fell nearly 4% yesterday. The euro wavered against the dollar, while Bitcoin and Ethereum dropped.

Quick Hits: Today's Headlines

Senate Republicans blocked a vote on President Biden’s nominations to the Federal Reserve. GOP lawmakers have raised concerns about conflicts of interest from nominee Sarah Bloom Raskin as a top banking regulator.

Airbnb reported bookings in its fiscal first quarter exceeded pre-pandemic levels for the first time. Shares of Airbnb Inc. (ABNB) are rising after the company posted record revenue last year, and projected continued growth as the economy emerges from the pandemic. 

Shares of Roblox Corp. (RBLX) are falling 20% after missing analyst expectations for fourth quarter sales and profits. However, the gaming company also reported a 33% jump in daily active users from a year ago.

A judge ruled that Altria Group didn’t break antitrust laws when it took a large stake in e-cigarette startup Juul Labs in 2018. The judge dismissed claims by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which said Altria had violated antitrust laws and pushed the company to unwind the deal with Juul.

Cedar Fair L.P. shares sunk after the amusement park operator rejected a reported $3.4 billion bid by SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. SeaWorld says it is now unlikely it will pursue a deal to combine the two theme parks.

ViacomCBS Inc. (VIAC) is renaming itself Paramount Global, effective today. The company says it wants to focus on its Paramount streaming business and Hollywood history with the name change.

The Big Story: Minding the Yield Curve

A dramatic flattening of the U.S. Treasury yield curve is raising concerns the Federal Reserve has been too slow to raise interest rates, and could now risk causing a recession by hiking interest rates too aggressively. 

An inverted yield curve, where rates on short-term government debt exceed those on long-term debt, has often predicted past recessions. The gap between the yields on the two-year and 10-year Treasury notes is the smallest since July 2020.

This flattening of the yield curve has raised worries that the Fed may have already let inflation climb out of control by being slow to raise interest rates. The curve also suggests that the Fed risks hurting economic growth if it acts too suddenly to curb inflation.

The gap between the two-year and 10-year yield is the gap most closely watched as a recession indicator. Experts generally forecast an economic downturn six months to two years after this part of the yield curve inverts.  

Traders are now pricing in around 175 basis points of interest rate increases by next February, and a 62% chance the Fed will raise interest rates by 50 basis points at its meeting in March. Investors will be closely watching the shape of the yield curve as the Fed ramps up its latest tightening cycle.

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