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Russia Moves Into Ukraine; Ukraine Says It Is Being Invaded. “Russia ordered a convoy of aid trucks across the border into eastern Ukraine on Friday apparently without Kiev’s permission, raising the danger of direct confrontation with the Ukrainian military, which is fighting pro-Russian rebels,” reported Reuters’ Dmitry Madorsky. “A Reuters witness said about 70 white-painted trucks, part of a column of about 260 that had been waiting at the border for over a week, had crossed the border and was heading towards the rebel stronghold of Luhansk accompanied by a small number of separatist fighters.”
Markets Fall. Stocks tumbled but have recovered some losses following the headlines out of Ukraine. U.S. futures are down, with Dow futures down 12 points and S&P futures down 2 points. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 is down 0.2%, France’s CAC 40 is down 0.9%, Germany’s DAX is down 0.6%, Spain’s IBEX is down 0.5%, and Italy’s FTSE MIB is down 0.4%.
All Eyes On Jackson Hole. The Kansas City Fed’s annual Economic Policy Symposium has kicked off. The topic of this year’s meeting: “Re-Evaluating Labour Market Dynamics.” And the main event will be Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s opening remarks, which come at 10 a.m. ET.
What To Expect From Yellen. In its latest FOMC statement, the Fed said “a range of labour market indicators suggests that there remains significant underutilization of labour resources.” Given the vagueness of that assessment, many hope Yellen will offer some more colour on that end. “In the spirit of the more academic focus of Jackson Hole, we expect Yellen to give a graduate seminar on the size, sources and slow improvement in labour market slack,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Michael Hansen said.
What Not To Expect From Yellen. For the most part, Fed watchers don’t expect any new comments about the path of monetary policy. But that won’t stop bond and stock market traders from parsing every last word for clues. “[T]he risk to the markets is that Yellen also acknowledges the better-than-expected labour market data and her comments are seen as less dovish than the markets currently appear to anticipate,” Hansen said. “Thus hawkish mis-readings of her remarks remain a risk, but we don’t expect any signal of a materially earlier exit from her.”
No Economic Data On The Calendar. There are no major market-moving economic reports scheduled for release on Friday. All eyes will fall squarely on Jackson Hole.
GameStop Had A Big Quarter. Electronic gaming retailer GameStop said sales surged 25% to $US1.73 billion, beating expectations for $US1.64 billion. Comparable store sales jumped 21.9%. “New software sales grew 15.6% driven by the strong performance of recently released new titles, such as Ubisoft’s ‘Watch Dogs’ and Nintendo’s ‘Mario Kart 8,'” management said. Earnings came in at $US0.22 per share, which was higher than the $US0.18 expected. Shares are up by about 5%.
Home Depot Promotes Menear. “Home Depot Inc. named retail industry veteran Craig Menear as its chief executive, four months after he was appointed as head of the home improvement chain’s U.S. retail business,” reported Reuters’ Siddharth Cavale. “Menear succeeds Frank Blake, who has led the company since 2007. Blake will stay on as chairman, the company said in a statement.”
What Were GM Lawyers Doing? “Federal prosecutors are scrutinizing whether employees inside and outside General Motors Co.’s legal department concealed evidence from regulators about a faulty ignition switch, potentially delaying a recall of vehicles with the fatal problem, according to people familiar with the matter,” reported The Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Matthews and Joann Lublin. “The investigation is at an early stage, one of the people said, and it is possible that the probe could end without any charges being brought.”
Gap’s Got Eyes For The Emerging Markets. “Apparel retailer Gap Inc. raised its full-year profit forecast, encouraged by strong sales of its lower-priced Old Navy clothes, and said it would open 40 stores in India as part of its strategy to expand in emerging markets,” reported Reuters’ Ramkumar Iyer. “Gap has been looking to reduce its dependence on the North American market, which generates more than three-quarters of its sales.”
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