After edging slightly lower three days in a row, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) edged no further, opting instead to plunge into negative territory as Russia launched military training operations near the Ukrainian border. The decision speaks to Russia's lack of concern regarding international consequences, a dangerous and provocative mind-set that makes diplomacy increasingly difficult. Only a week ago, tensions between the two countries had eased so much that mainstream U.S. media started to insinuate that Russian President Vladimir Putin had backed down, running from the idea of military action. Even if today's increased military presence is a "bluff," the aggressive move is making Western powers uneasy, and Wall Street downright scared. The Dow plummeted 231 points, or 1.4%, to end at 16,108 today.
Not a single blue chip stock ended higher Thursday, so Home Depot's (NYSE:HD) 2.2% decline shouldn't be overly scrutinized. While Wall Street might be focused on the unusually harsh winter we've had and the impact that may have on the company's first-quarter results, I'd be more concerned about the company's long-term viability. That said, Home Depot's long-term viability looks promising to me; the biggest direct threat is from Lowe's, and Home Depot still has same-store sales growth that Lowe's would kill for -- despite the fact that Lowe's is half Home Depot's size.
Shares of casino operator Las Vegas Sands (NYSE:LVS) tend to fluctuate a bit more wildly than the leading name in home improvement retail, and for good reason. Las Vegas Sands is slightly more leveraged than Home Depot, and far more sensitive to economic trends in Asia. In this way, Las Vegas Sands stock is a levered investment in the growth of the Asian economy, and the popularity of the new gaming mecca, Macau. A sudden and altogether unexpected drop in Chinese exports, announced on Monday, should give investors pause; there's a very real potential that Asian hype has sent the stock into overbought territory.
Finally, Krispy Kreme Donuts (NYSE:KKD), which opened the day trading nearly 7% higher, finished with 1.2% gains as geopolitical pessimism sent shares lower. In all honesty, the notion that Krispy Kreme's business became 6% less valuable in a matter of hours -- because of some active military personnel halfway across the globe -- makes about as much sense as a cyanide donut. Krispy Kreme investors actually have plenty to cheer after the company increased earnings projections, and boosted the share buyback from $50 million to $80 million, both of which could add some extra zeros to investor portfolios.
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