Dow searches for direction after Russia chaos, economic worries

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U.S. stocks were flat to slightly higher Monday, starting off on a cautiously positive note after last week’s pullback as investors assessed the ramifications of a volatile weekend in Russia and jitters around the economic outlook.

What’s happening

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average
    rose 45 points, or 0.1%, to 33,773.

  • The S&P 500
    was up 8 points, or 0.2%, at 4,356.

  • The Nasdaq Composite
    ticked up 37 points, or 0.3%, to 13, 530.

The S&P 500 fell last week, ending a streak of five straight weekly gains, while the Dow and Nasdaq Composite also pulled back. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit 14-month highs earlier this month.

See: Why the ‘easy money’ has been made in the stock-market rally — and what comes next

What’s driving markets

“So far, the markets appear to be taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the weekend’s eye-opening developments in Russia. But that element of geopolitical uncertainty unfolded just as the stock market suffered its first down week since mid-May as the Fed stuck to its hawkish script on interest rates,” said Chris Larkin, managing director for trading and investing at E-Trade from Morgan Stanley, in emailed comments.

See: What’s next for markets after aborted Wagner mutiny leaves Russia’s Putin weakened

Gold futures
rose modestly and the yield on the 10-year Treasury
fell as Yevgeny Prigozhin was reportedly headed for Belarus after his Wagner Group troops had headed to Moscow in a seeming challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin abruptly halted the mutiny on Saturday.

The overall reaction across financial markets, however, was relatively muted, though analysts said the prospect of further internal strife after the incident left Putin looking weak could stoke volatility.

While the human toll of the Russia-Ukraine war is staggering, the market reaction is largely a function of how the fighting affects commodity prices. The political upheaval over the weekend didn’t move oil or grain prices in a big way, with crude futures
up modestly early Monday.

“Looking forward, obviously this injects more geopolitical uncertainty into the world, but as long as commodity prices don’t spike higher, the markets will largely ignore Russian political volatility,” Tom Essaye, founder of Sevens Report Research, said in a Monday note.

Worries about the global economy continued after a sharp drop in the German Ifo business climate index for June. The closely watched gauge declined to 88.5 in June from 91.5 in May, according to data from the Ifo Institute published Monday. The reading fell short of expectations of 90.5 according to economists polled by The Wall Street Journal.

A flurry of rate hikes by European central banks last week heightened worries about growth, while Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated that a “strong majority” of policy makers were in favor of two more quarter-point rate increases after the central bank opted earlier this month to leave its fed-funds rate unchanged.

“With Fed chief Powell reminding everyone the inflation fight is a long way from being over — and that the Fed could raise rates another 0.5% before they call it quits — every inflation data point will be closely scrutinized,” said E-Trade’s Larkin.

That includes Friday’s personal-consumption expenditures index, the Fed’s preferred inflation measure, and the June jobs report next week, he said, which “could determine whether last week’s pullback remains just that or turns into something bigger.”

Companies in focus

  • Tesla Inc.
    shares fell 0.4% after Goldman Sachs became the latest Wall Street bank to downgrade the automaker.

  • Shares of Lucid Group Inc.
    jumped more than 12%, bouncing off a record-low close, after the electric-vehicle maker and battery-pack maker disclosed a supply agreement with U.K.-based luxury automaker Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings PLC


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