US stocks went on a bumpy ride as investors continue to trade off every incremental update with the Ukraine-Russia conflict and following a wrath of mixed US economic data. Stocks were under pressure early after a French official said President Macron’s conversation with Vladimir Putin did not provide any reason to be optimistic that we could see a de-escalation/ceasefire. Wall Street was disappointed after the ISM Service Index posted a third consecutive decline, with business activity, new orders, and employment posting hefty declines. The end of the omicron impact is likely to be impacting the soft ISM Services PMI report, so expectations should be high that a rebound occurs in March.
Risk appetite attempted to make a comeback after Presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said Russia and Ukraine would have a third round of talks. Stock traders face a very choppy market going forward that will likely see pressure as inflationary pressures increase across the board, which will eventually trigger much more aggressive central bank tightening. Investors will struggle to find a reason to pile back in aggressively in stocks until a major de-escalation with the Ukraine-Russia conflict occurs and inflation shows signs of easing.
Fed Chair Powell’s testimony reminded traders that aggressive Fed tightening was still possible if the Russia-Ukraine war leads to longer-lasting inflation. The Fed is still prepared to deliver a series of rate hikes and that they are prepared to do whatever it takes to have stable prices. Powell believes that the labor shortage problem will keep the labor market overheated.
Traders will await to see if the February employment report shows hiring remained robust, which should pave the way for the Fed to deliver a steady stream of rate hikes despite all the uncertainty with the full impact that the war in Ukraine will have on the economy. Tomorrow’s nonfarm payroll report is expected to show 415,000 jobs were created in February.
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