Here are the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:
- Stock futures dip after Wall Street breaks a 3-day losing streak
- Economic calendar — stronger retail sales, Fed meeting minutes
- Biden says Russian invasion of Ukraine still 'distinctly possible'
- Moderna CEO sees 80% chance of Covid evolving as less virulent
- ViacomCBS changes its corporate name to Paramount Global
1. Stock futures dip after Wall Street breaks a 3-day losing streak
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U.S. stock futures dropped modestly Wednesday, one day after Wall Street broke a three-session losing streak. After two hot inflation reports, January retail sales rose much stronger than expected. Signs of tensions easing between Russia and Ukraine ignited a rally Tuesday that propelled the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 up more than 1% each and the Nasdaq to rise over 2%. However, NATO is now accusing Russia of massing troops at the Ukrainian border, a day after Moscow said it was pulling back. The 10-year Treasury yield ticked lower early Wednesday but remained above 2%.
2. Economic calendar — stronger retail sales, Fed meeting minutes
The government's data on January retail sales, out before the bell Wednesday, showed a 3.8% increase compared to the expected 2.1% gain. These numbers do not account for inflation. So bigger sales numbers — $649.8 billion worth last month — don't necessarily mean more actual sales. December retail sales were downwardly revised to a 2.5% decline.
The investment community also hopes to learn more about how the Fed feels about the economy and what it plans to do to fight inflation when minutes from the central bank's January meeting are released at 2 p.m. ET. The markets expect the Fed to hike interest rates seven times this year, starting next month.
3. Biden says Russian invasion of Ukraine still 'distinctly possible'
Despite NATO claiming to see no signs of drawdowns at Ukraine's border, Russia said Wednesday it's returning more troops and weapons to their bases. Moscow's Tuesday announcement of a pullback was met with skepticism around the world. President Joe Biden warned "an invasion remains distinctly possible," while urging Russia to choose a diplomatic path to resolving the conflict.
- Moscow, which has repeatedly insisted it has no plans to invade Ukraine, is demanding, among other things, that the former Soviet republic never be permitted to join NATO. The U.S. and NATO have said that such a request from Russia cannot be accommodated.
4. Moderna CEO sees 80% chance of Covid evolving as less virulent
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC on Wednesday that it's "reasonable" to assume that the final stages of the Covid pandemic may be approaching. Bancel said there's an 80% chance that as the omicron variant evolves it would become "less and less virulent." But he also sees a "20% scenario where we see a next mutation, which is more virulent than omicron."
- New daily U.S. Covid cases continued to plummet, with the latest seven-day average dropping 44% to 136,190, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. While new daily U.S. deaths from Covid dropped 8% from a week ago, fatalities remained elevated, averaging 2,264 over the past seven days.
5. ViacomCBS changes its corporate name to Paramount Global
On the same day it reported lower-than-expected quarterly earnings and better-than-expected revenue and streaming video subscriber additions, ViacomCBS announced after the bell Tuesday a corporate name change to Paramount Global. The move, effective Wednesday, ties the company closer to its Paramount+ streaming service and takes advantage of Paramount's brand recognition. The new Paramount Global moniker also comes with fresh tickers, starting Thursday, including a change to PARAA for Class A shares from VIACA.