Wall Street Breakfast: Military Aid
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As Russia's war in Ukraine approaches its grim first anniversary, President Biden made a surprise trip to Kyiv on Monday to walk the streets of the capital and keep allies unified in their support for Ukraine. Air raids sirens even howled as he and Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrapped up a visit to the gold-domed St. Michael's Cathedral, in a show of solidarity that took Biden two plane trips and a 10-hour overnight train ride to reach his final destination. The brutal war has caused widespread destruction, killing tens of thousands of civilians and soldiers, and comes as both sides prepare for bigger offensives in the spring.
Snapshot: With no meaningful changes on the ground for months, President Biden announced the 32nd package of another $450M in American military aid for Ukraine. It will include air defense radars, Javelin anti-armor systems (LMT, RTX) and artillery ammunition (despite concerns that Ukraine may be draining ammo faster than the West can supply it). Long-range weapons were also discussed, though there was no mention of Lockheed Martin (LMT) F-16 fighter jets, which would upgrade Ukraine's firepower - but could also escalate the situation with the ability to strike deep into Russia.
The U.S. has already made several U-turns on supplying more advanced weapons to Kyiv, including heavy artillery, M1 Abrams tanks and the Patriot missile defense system. Washington has also sought to prevent Beijing from supplying Moscow with arms, though Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin recently said the U.S. was "in no position to make demands." In terms of defense spending, SA contributor Trade Theory still calls dividend aristocrat General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) the "best war coupon for 2023" given the rising threat environment surrounding Ukraine.
"Freedom is priceless. It's worth fighting for as long as it takes, and that's how long we're going to be with Mr. President," Biden said at a press conference with Zelenskyy. "When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. He thought he could outlast us, but he was dead wrong. The cost that Ukraine has had to pay is extraordinarily high. The sacrifices have been far too great. We know that there'll be very difficult days and weeks and years ahead. But Putin's war of conquest is failing." NATO renews pledge for Ukraine to become member of military alliance
Response: While battlefield losses have piled up for Russia, its economy has so far survived the sweeping sanctions that have led it to become increasingly isolated on the world stage. On the heels of Biden's visit to Kyiv, Vladimir Putin also gave a speech this morning to the country's political and military elite, updating them on his "special military operation" in Ukraine. "We were doing everything possible to solve this problem peacefully," but NATO "covered us with an umbrella." "I want to repeat: it is them who are culpable for the war, and we are using force to stop it," he said to great applause, while thanking people in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk for "being together with your motherland" and that "means we become even stronger." (41 comments)
Walmart's (WMT) earnings this morning could jolt the retail sector. Comparable sales are forecast to rise 4.9% during the quarter - after stripping out fuel revenue - and expect executives to discuss inventory issues, freight costs, vendor relationships and supply chain challenges on the conference call. Overall, analysts see a cautious tone from the company due to the competitive environment and choppy economic backdrop, but see what SA Marketplace author The Value Pendulum views as key items to consider. Keep another eye on Home Depot (HD) earnings in the premarket session, with macro factors in focus as the retailer attempts to maintain sales momentum after a pandemic-driven boom. (20 comments)
Taking a page from Elon Musk's Twitter playbook, Meta (META) CEO Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed a similar subscription service. "Meta Verified" will allow users to verify their accounts using a government ID, with prices starting at $11.99/month on the web or $14.99/month on iOS and Android. It's mainly targeted at content creators, enabling them to expand their communities, with a blue verification badge, extra impersonation protection and direct access to customer support. "This new feature is about increasing authenticity and security across our services," Zuckerberg added in a Facebook post. "We'll be rolling out in Australia and New Zealand this week and more countries soon." (93 comments)
The future of online speech is up for discussion at the Supreme Court as justices begin to hear oral arguments today in a showdown against Google (GOOG, GOOGL) and the social media world. The case surrounds the death of Nohemi Gonzalez - a 23-year-old American who was killed in the November 2015 Paris attacks - and specifically calls into question Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was passed back in 1996 in the early days of the internet. SCOTUS will also hear a similar case against Twitter later this week. Here is a breakdown of both sides of the recommended content argument. (4 comments)
In Asia, Japan -0.2%. Hong Kong -1.7%. China +0.5%. India flat.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.3%. Paris -0.5%. Frankfurt -0.5%.
Futures at 6:30, Dow -0.8%. S&P -0.9%. Nasdaq -1%. Crude +1.4% to $77.59. Gold -0.4% to $1842.20. Bitcoin -0.6% to $24,711.
Ten-year Treasury Yield +5 bps to 3.88%
Today's Economic Calendar
9:45 PMI Composite Flash
10:00 Existing Home Sales
1:00 PM Results of $42B, 2-Year Note Auction
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