Axios Closer

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March 08, 2022

You made it, good work today!

💡 Join Axios' Neil Irwin and Alexi McCammond tomorrow at 12:30pm ET for a virtual event exploring the origins and impacts of the rising cost of living. Guests include White House Council of Economic Advisers member Heather Boushey and UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich. Register here.

Today's newsletter, edited by Pete Gannon, is 695 words, a 2½-minute read.

🔔 The dashboard: The S&P closed down 0.7%.

  • Biggest gainer? Enphase Energy (+10.8%).
  • Biggest decliner? Seagate Technology (-9.5%).

1 big thing: Globalization is wheezing

Illustration of a Newton's cradle whose middle ball looks like the Ukrainian flag and it's sandwiched between the active ball, with a Russian flag, and another still ball that looks like the earth.
Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The economic and market ramifications stemming from the Russian invasion of Ukraine illuminate the interconnectedness of the global economy, even when direct relations between countries are limited, Nathan writes.

Why it matters: The war has sent shockwaves through the markets for oil, gas, wheat and nickel — all products made in high volumes in Russia or Ukraine — as prices soar due to fears of disruption or actual supply issues.

State of play: The U.S. doesn’t import much petroleum from Russia, but the Biden administration’s decision today to ban imports of Russian oil and gas still marks another key step in the excision of a previously significant player from the globalized economy.

  • U.S. gasoline prices hit an all-time average high of $4.17 per gallon today, topping the previous record of $4.11 from July 2008, according to AAA. And they're likely to continue marching higher.
  • The world should be poised for "a potentially enormous oil supply shock," Goldman Sachs analyst Damien Courvalin warned in a research note.

Threat level: Despite the economic ramifications of sudden withdrawal, association of any kind with Russia is turning out to be so politically toxic that few American businesses are choosing to keep their doors open there. More made announcements today (See item No. 3).

What we’re watching: How the ripple effects of the spike in commodity prices affect the global supply chain crisis.

  • The shocking increase in the price of nickel, a major Russian export, could affect the price of new vehicles if it lasts. Nickel is a key component in electric cars.

The bottom line: The global economy is dealing with the effects of whiplash as it careens from all-out globalization to the harsh realities of partial isolationism.

2. Charted: Small biz frets about inflation

Data: NFIB; Chart: Will Chase/Axios
Data: NFIB; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Small businesses are suddenly feeling blue, Nathan writes.

By the numbers: The National Federation of Independent Business' Optimism Index in February fell to its lowest monthly point since January 2021.

  • The 95.7 score is also the fourth-lowest mark in at least five years, according to data released Tuesday.

The big picture: Labor shortages and supply chain issues remain challenging. But inflation is the biggest concern for small businesses — with 26% reporting it's their "most important problem," the highest since the third quarter of 1981.

3. What's happening

 Apple debuted a new low-cost iPhone SE with 5G. (Yahoo Finance)

🥤Coca-Cola today said it was suspending its business in Russia, while PepsiCo is suspending its sale of Pepsi-Cola and specific brands. (CNBC)

🍔 McDonald’s is temporarily closing its 850 restaurants in Russia. (CNN)

4. Musk seeks "unsettlement"

Elon Musk making a confused face with his thumbs pointing in opposite directions
Photo: Britta Pedersen/Pool/Getty Images

Remember that settlement agreement? Yeah, well I take it back.

  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk is seeking to scrap a 2018 settlement with the SEC over his allegedly false statements about efforts to take Tesla private, Axios' Jacob Knutson writes.

Why it matters: The settlement, which required Musk to step down as the chair of Tesla, pay a $20 million fine and get pre-approval for all of his tweets about the company, has generated friction between the billionaire and federal regulators.

  • The SEC last year accused him of violating the settlement on at least two occasions with tweets.
  • Musk last month accused the SEC of undertaking a "harassment campaign" in an effort to "chill his exercise of First Amendment rights."

What they're saying: Musk and his companies "have been subject to one investigation after another, accompanied by round after round of demands for voluminous, costly document productions, with no signs of abatement," Musk's lawyers wrote in a motion filed today.

Go deeper.

5. Less TP for your money

Illustration of a roll of toilet paper made from money.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Two years after our nationwide toilet paper shortage, we’ve got less TP in an entirely different way, Nathan writes.

What’s happening: Procter & Gamble's 18-count Charmin ultra-soft toilet paper package now contains 244 two-ply sheets, down from 264 per roll, CNN reports.

  • “Super mega rolls” now have 366 sheets, down from 396.

The big picture: It’s another example of the “shrinkflation” trend we’ve reported on. We’re paying more for less.

Our thought bubble: And you thought the days of conserving TP were over.

6. What they're saying

"Deeds not words. Stop posting platitudes. Start fixing the problem.”
— The Gender Pay Gap Bot, which quote tweeted International Women’s Day posts by certain companies in the U.K. with official data about pay disparities at each organization.