By Geoffrey Smith
Investing.com -- U.S. stock markets opened lower on Wednesday as the peace euphoria of Tuesday faded against a backdrop of continued Russian offensives in part of Ukraine. Fears of inflation were also in evidence again as the latest revision of fourth quarter GDP data contained an upward revision to key measure of inflation in the period.
Earlier, a Ukrainian government spokesman said that Russia had renewed and intensified its attacks in the east of the country, lending substance to Western suspicions that the announcement of a de-escalation in the region around Kyiv (following some damaging battlefield reverses) was little more than a maneuver to gain time to regroup. Optimists pointed to more comments from the head of Russia's negotiating team in Istanbul.
News closer to home was more encouraging. ADP (NASDAQ: ADP )'s monthly report on private sector hiring indicated that 455,000 jobs were created through the middle of March, only a slight moderation from February's rate. That follows the Labor Department's monthly job openings survey on Tuesday that showed vacancies still close to record highs, with little sign of a slowdown in sight. However, GDP growth data for the fourth quarter were revised down slightly to an annualized rate of 6.9% while the rate of personal consumer expenditures inflation was revised up to 6.4%.
The mood was supported by two stronger-than-expected earnings reports that came in the previous evening. Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ: LULU ) stock rose 6.7% to its highest in nearly three months after it beat forecasts with both its latest quarterly numbers and its guidance for the current year. Meanwhile Micron Technology (NASDAQ: MU ) stock rose 4.7% as the company reported a banner quarter, thanks to the burgeoning demand for data center chips and high prices paid by automotive groups beset by component shortages.
Going in the other direction was Chewy (NYSE: CHWY ) stock, which lost 15% after the online pet food retailer reported a quarterly loss that was more than double expectations. It blamed the development on the wave of Omicron-variant COVID-19, which it said disrupted its already-strained supply chains. Five Below (NASDAQ: FIVE ) stock also fell 3.6% after the discount retailer likewise missed expectations with its quarterly numbers.
Elsewhere, BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX ) stock surged 6.7% after the COVID-19 vaccine maker announced a special dividend and flagged plans for a buyback program worth up to $1.5 billion. The makers of COVID-19 vaccines have lost significant momentum in recent weeks as the disease has appeared to become both endemic and less virulent. Even at its current level, BioNTech stock is down 50% from its peak only four months ago.
Further afield, ADRs in German chemicals giant BASF (OTC: BASFY ) fell 3.1% after Germany proclaimed the first stage of a three-stage emergency plan that could lead to the rationing of natural gas . Russia has threatened to stop shipments if 'unfriendly' countries don't pay it in rubles from the start of April, a move that would undercut existing sanctions on Russian banks including the central bank. Germany and other G7 members rejected that demand earlier this week, and the Kremlin walked back its previous threat a little earlier on Wednesday, saying any supply curtailments would take place over time.
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