Geopolitical Tensions Cause More Volatility on Wall Street

The Fed's January meeting minutes also nabbed investors' attention

Deputy Editor
Feb 18, 2022 at 3:39 PM
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Tensions between Russia and Ukraine took center stage this week, leading to a dismal show on Wall Street. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken closed the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, citing a buildup of Russian forces, which sent the Dow lower to log its third-straight loss. During the next session, Russia said it had pulled some troops back from Ukraine's border, helping the blue-chip index snap its losing streak while the S&P and Nasdaq also scored noteworthy wins.

While Wednesday saw traders continue to monitor developments overseas, the Federal Reserve's January meeting minutes grabbed their attention, leading to a mixed day for the major indexes. By Thursday, fears of Russia invading Ukraine returned with a vengeance, and the Dow shed 622 points to secure its worst day of 2022. Volatility is rampant at this point today, after pro-Russia separatists were accused of opening fire near Ukraine's border, and the major benchmarks are all headed toward a second-straight weekly loss as we approach standard options expiration

Earnings Continue to Pour In

One thing that likely kept Wall Street's losses in check was an upbeat earnings season. Arguably one of the more important releases was blue-chip retailer Walmart (WMT), which reported top- and bottom-line beats to help keep the Dow from further spiraling on Thursday. DoorDash (DASH), meanwhile, also chimed in with stellar fourth-quarter results, and logged its best day of 2022 as a result. A beat-and-raise helped Cisco Systems (CSCO) snag a win, while the company moved to increase its share buyback program.

Avis Budget Group (CAR), meanwhile, brushed off an earnings win, falling 14% to start its post-earnings session despite a surge in rental activity for the fourth quarter. Nobody had it as rough as Roku (ROKU), however, with the stock heading towards its worst recorded single-day percentage drop ever following after disappointing investors on revenue and current-quarter revenue forecasts.

Options Traders Get In on the Volatility

With volatility running wild, options traders are in a position to profit big. Just take a look at our recommendation on Peabody Energy (BTU), which subscribers locked in a 200% profit on in a little under one month. Meanwhile, options bears blasted Dropbox (DBX) following a stellar earnings report. Reddit-darling Palantir Technologies (PLTR) also attracted a hefty amount of options interest, after earnings missed Wall Street's forecasts. Bullish and bearish traders alike ravaged Nvidia (NVDA) after weighing demand for its data centers against flat profit margins and exposure to the crypto market.

Elsewhere, Virgin Galactic (SPCE) announced plans to have 1,000 customers board a commercial spaceflight later in 2022, leading to call volume that was seven times more than typically seen. And puts popped on Moderna (MRNA) after the company's CEO sold 10,000 shares and disappeared from Twitter.

Earnings, Economic Data Keep Flooding In

With President's Day on Monday, Wall Street will have a holiday-shortened week to close out February. That's not to say there will be limited economic data to sift through, as inflation data will continue to trickle in via the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) and five-year inflation reports. On the earnings front, Beyond Meat (BYND), DraftKings (DKNG), eBay (EBAY), Home Depot (HD), Macy's (M), and Wayfair (W) are all slated to report. In the meantime, Schaeffer's Senior Quantitative Analyst Rocky White has some tips on what to look out for when analysts are more bullish.


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