Financials Lead the Dow's Jump Today

Visa (NYSE: V  ) is helping to push the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) higher after Russian President Vladimir Putin took steps to ease tensions in Ukraine. As of 1:20 p.m. EDT the Dow was up 100 points to 16,501. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC  ) was up 6 points to 1,873.

Today Russia moved troops away from the border in Ukraine. President Putin also said that Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine should postpone this Sunday's referendum on independence from Ukraine. Further, Putin called the May 25th presidential election "a movement in the right direction" and agreed to a proposal by Germany Chancellor Angel Merkel to start roundtable talks between Kiev and the separatists. However, The Washington Post interviewed a Pentagon spokesman who, when asked about Russia's presence on the Ukrainian border, replied, "We've seen no change." We will have to wait and see what happens.

Visa is one of the Dow's top stocks today, up 1.1% because the Russian president's moves, if real, decrease the chance of further sanctions on Russia. Visa has over 100 million cards in Russia and could be disallowed from working with certain Russian banks if they were the target of sanctions. Both Visa and MasterCard (NYSE: MA  ) highlighted Russia on their earnings calls as something that could hurt the companies' performance. Roughly 2% of MasterCard's revenue came from Russia in the most recent quarter, while Visa counts on Russia for 3% to 4% of its revenue. Both payment processors temporarily had to stop working with SMP Bank, as its owners are both sanctioned by the U.S. government.

In response to the sanctions, President Putin ordered the government to begin work on building a new payment network to be owned by the government. New laws are also in the works to require payment companies to house all Russian data in Russia, pay fees for any discontinuations of service, and meet new collateral requirements. It remains to be seen whether Russia can pass all of these laws or implement a nationalized payment network. But of the two major U.S. payment-processors, Visa has the most to lose if the situation in Russia gets worse.

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