Putin's big week means more uncertainty for the markets during a critical time

Putin's big week means more uncertainty for the markets during a critical time
Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested Wall Street Journalist Evan Gershkovich could be released in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Thursday.Getty Images

Hi! With Valentine’s Day tomorrow, we asked florists to tell us the biggest mistakes people make when buying flowers.

In today’s big story, we’re looking at why the recent resurgence of Vladimir Putin and Russia comes at an inopportune time for the markets.

What's on deck:

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The big story

Putin's big week

Tucker Carlson and Vladimir Putin
Rebecca Zisser/Business Insider

Vladimir Putin hasn't notched many personal wins since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but last week was an exception.

The Russian president’s recent string of victories, headlined by his interview with Tucker Carlson, puts him in the strongest position he’s been in for months, writes Business Insider’s Tom Porter.

The Carlson interview, which allowed Putin to reinforce skepticism about sending aid to Ukraine, was followed by a special counsel casting doubt on President Joe Biden’s mental competence.

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump said he’d allow Russia to attack NATO countries. (To be clear, a new law makes it extremely difficult for a president to withdraw the US from NATO, writes BI’s Brent D. Griffiths.)

Putin’s successes further complicate a geopolitical situation that has silently loomed over a US economy trying to tiptoe past a recession.

That type of chaos and uncertainty is exactly what Putin seems to have aimed for since the start of his country’s invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.

Russia has played the long game, banking on support for Ukraine to eventually dry up, Tom previously wrote. The approach has worked, as some Republicans have resisted sending additional funding to Ukraine despite the country’s pleas for more.

In this pool photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives an interview to US talk show host Tucker Carlson at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 6, 2024.GAVRIIL GRIGOROV vias Getty Images

The Ukraine conflict is one of many geopolitical risks experts identify as a potential catalyst for upending markets

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has long been a vocal critic of the risks of various global conflicts, from rising US-China tension to the Israel-Gaza war. In October, he went as far as to say “this may be the most dangerous time the world has seen in decades.”

Billionaire investor and Bridgewater Associates founder Ray Dalio said at the beginning of the year the market hadn’t priced in these geopolitical risks.

To be fair, the market has plenty to consider these days.

There are concerns over a potential crisis in commercial real estate due to the sector’s mountain of debt. The government’s “unsustainable fiscal path” when it comes to its lending, according to Fed Chair Jerome Powell. And whether the growing divide between the Magnificent 7 stocks and the rest of the S&P 500 is creating the next tech bubble.

And then there’s the question of when the Fed will ultimately cut rates.

It’s made for a difficult environment to forecast, with plenty of experts flip-flopping on predictions over the past year-plus.

Most seem to agree the US economy is on track for a soft landing, but economist David Rosenberg pegs the chances of a recession this year at 85%.

Uncertainty about the state of the Russia-Ukraine war doesn’t help the situation. And it’ll also impact another market X factor: the upcoming US presidential election.

3 things in markets

Jerome Powell

1. The Fed is falling out of favor with economists. A new survey found 21% of economists feel the Fed’s policy is “too restrictive.” That’s an uptick from 14% feeling that way last year, and the highest percentage since 2011.

2. Stocks are doing just fine without a rate cut. The market will continue to rise even if the Fed doesn’t end up cutting rates this year, according to Bank of America equity strategist Savita Subramanian. In fact, large-cap companies with lots of cash on hand might benefit from the interest generated if rates stay high.

3. Another crucial inflation report is coming. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is set to release January’s consumer price index this morning. Investors are hoping the monthly print shows a cooldown, which could give the Fed the green light to start slashing interest rates later this year.

3 things in tech

Artwork depicting layoffs at Microsoft and Grammarly

1. Tech layoffs are hitting companies that are doing just fine. Grammarly recently announced 230 job cuts — despite the CEO lauding the company’s “strong" finances. It’s taught workers that even if their company is doing well, they may still be let go.

2. Generative AI startup Abridge is raising more funding. Abridge is in talks to close a substantial round of funding less than four months after announcing its last fundraise, according to three people with knowledge of the efforts. Its latest round points to a surge in investor interest in medical AI.

3. Amazon-owned One Medical considered spinning off its senior healthcare business. The company will also scale back senior healthcare support roles as part of an effort to save $52 million, people familiar with the matter told BI.

3 things in business

Gen Z just wants a raise and a promotion.
Abanti Chowdhury/ BI

1. For Gen Z, a job is just a job. The generation is more unsatisfied with work than any other generation. With a shrinking separation between work and play, more and more Gen Zers just want two things out of a job: a good salary and a quick promotion.

2. Wait, how do you pronounce Temu? In the online ultra-discount retailer’s Super Bowl ads, Temu was curiously pronounced “teh-moo.” The ads’ pronunciation had some viewers confused, and sent search interest in Temu soaring.

3. Paramount’s Super Bowl livestream ran into problems. The entertainment giant acknowledged that “a very small number of subscribers experienced an error due to a technical issue” during the Chiefs-49ers showdown.

In other news

What's happening today

  • Today’s earnings: Airbnb, Lyft, and other companies are reporting today.

  • OpenAI CEO Sam Altman will speak today at the World Government Summit.

  • Ferrari is set to launch its 2024 F1 car.

The Insider Today team

Dan DeFrancesco, deputy editor and anchor, in New York. Hallam Bullock, editor, in London. Jordan Parker Erb, editor, in New York.

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