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Ukraine: Forces Hold Out As Fighting Intensifies In Soledar; Atlanta To Host Potential Bills-Chiefs AFC Championship; U.S. Inflation Eases Again In December, Positive Sign For Economy. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 13, 2023 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The battle for Soledar in the eastern -- in eastern Ukraine rages on. The salt-mining town close to Bakhmut has become the epicenter of the fighting despite hundreds of civilians still living there.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy says the combat has been intense and bloody.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (through translator): Today I would like to specifically mention the paratroopers from the 77th Airborne Brigade that, together with the fighters from the 46th Airborne Brigade, hold their position in Soledar and inflict significant losses on the enemy.


ROMANS: Let's go to CNN's Scott McLean live in Kyiv. And what we're hearing from the ground is just terrifying. What is the significance of Soledar?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine -- I mean, to the wider world, there's none at all. Soledar is a town that pre-war had maybe 10,000 people.

But on the battlefield, the Russians need a win. They have tried and failed to capture the strategic town of Bakhmut, which is less than 10 miles away, and they haven't been able to make inroads. And so, Soledar may be their next best hope to capture that win on the battlefield and they are investing an enormous amount of troops and manpower, and it seems that they are making inroads.

The Ukrainian deputy defense minister said that overnight, the fighting there was hot and that the Russians maintained a high level of intensity, but she insists that the Ukrainian troops are still holding the line. We spoke with one Ukrainian soldier who was inside the town of Soledar and he said that at least his unit has been abandoned. They are pinned down. They have no food, they have little water.

And frankly, the window to actually withdraw from that area is closing fast if it hasn't closed already. He says that judging by the sounds on the battlefield it seems that other Ukrainian units nearby have either been ordered to withdraw or have withdrawn on their own. And this is the same soldier who told us two days ago that Ukrainian withdrawal from Soledar seemed inevitable -- only a matter of time.

Now, the Wagner private military group says that they have captured the entire town. That is disputed. But what is really remarkable about that statement is that they insist that they have done it with no help at all from regular Russian forces. Now, the Russian military disputes that. They say that their forces have -- are holding the northern and southern parts of the town and they are fighting within it.

But this internal spat really illustrates some of the internal tensions within the Russian forces just as the military has appointed a brand new commander to lead the war effort in Ukraine -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Scott McLean. Thank you for that, Scott.

All right, quick hits across the globe right now.

Hundreds protesting in Peru, demanding President Dina Boluarte resign. They're calling for general elections. More than 40 people have died in protests since Peru's former president was impeached and detained.

Outrage and condemnation after the UAE's appointment of an oil executive to lead talks at the U.N.'s upcoming climate summit. The host country says the head of Abu Dhabi's National Oil Company has green credentials.

CIA Dir. William Burns in a rare trip to Libya with one of the country's rival prime ministers on security and economic issues. Libya has been unstable since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.


Coming up, President Biden welcoming a key ally today as he works to counter China. And the Chiefs ready to take on the Bills, but not in Buffalo or Kansas City.


ROMANS: All right, the NFL making it official. The potential Buffalo Bills-Kansas City Chiefs AFC Championship game will be played in -- drum roll, please -- Atlanta.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, Christine. So, a conference championship game has never been played at a neutral site like the Super Bowl is every year. But to be fair to the Bills, that is what's going to happen if they meet the Chiefs in the AFC title game.

The Bills -- they did have the upper hand to get the one seed and home field advantage in the AFC but due to playing one less game after Damar Hamlin's collapse, it ended up going to the Chiefs. So the NFL owners voted to have the game at a neutral site if the two were to meet. The league picking Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta after Indianapolis reportedly turned the game down due to a national volleyball tournament being in town.


The AFC Championship is January 29, 6:40 eastern. Again, that game is going to be in Atlanta only if it's the Bills and Chiefs.

All right, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, meanwhile, has been ruled out for Sunday night's wild card showdown in Cincinnati. The 2019 MVP hasn't played since the first week of December. And Jackson tweeting yesterday he has a PCL sprain and his knee remains unstable. Jackson is a free agent after this season.

His backup, Tyler Huntley, has been dealing with an injured shoulder but hopes to play against the Bengals.

All right. In the NBA, Lakers and Mavs playing a thriller last night. Time was wounding down and the Mavs were down three. Luka Doncic going to hit a step-back to tie the game.

The Lakers do get one last chance here. Troy Brown Jr. thought he was fouled on this shot at the buzzer. LeBron thought he was fouled as well. No call, though.

So we would go to overtime. In O.T., Luca would be at it again. It's another step-back three to tie the game with under a minute to go.

We would go to double-overtime and that's when the Mavs would finally pull away to win this game 119-115.

Then we had another fantastic finish last night -- this one in the NHL. The Stars clinging to a 1-0 lead over the Rangers in the final seconds. The puck ping-ponging everywhere in front of the net. And behind all the chaos, K'Andre Miller finding the back of the net with just two-tenths of a second left.

We would go to overtime. And just over a minute into O.T., Adam Fox finishing it off, driving the loose puck and beating Jake Oettinger with a great backhander.

The Rangers rally for the win. As you can see, the fans there are certainly delighted.

All right, finally, Shaq making good on his national championship game, promised eating some fried frog legs to celebrate Georgia's historic blowout win over the TCU Horned Frogs.


SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, FORMER NBA PLAYER, SPORTS ANALYST: I just want to let you all know these frog legs are good. These are the best frog legs I done had ever.


SCHOLES: Oh boy, Christine. You ever -- have you ever eaten fried frog legs at all?

ROMANS: No, but is it -- is it really a risk? I mean, everything fried is good, right?

SCHOLES: I got -- I've had fried gator which actually -- it was chewy but quite good. I've never gotten into the frogs, though.

ROMANS: I know. You put anything in a deep-fat fryer and it's going to taste good.

SCHOLES: It works out.

ROMANS: A little salt and pepper.

All right, nice to see you --


ROMANS: -- Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: Have a great weekend.

Here is today's fast-forward look ahead.

President Biden will welcome Japanese President Kishida to the White House. They're expected to talk about strengthening military ties, South Korea, Russia, and maintaining stability in the Taiwan Strait.

Richard Allen, the man charged with killing two teenage girls in Delphi, Indiana, will be in court. The judge is expected to rule on a change of venue and a gag order.

The jackpot in tonight's Mega Millions drawing soars to $1.35 billion. That makes it the second-largest in the lottery's history after nobody won the big prize in Tuesday's drawing.

Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING," severe storms and tornadoes reported tearing through the south.

And next, right here, busted. What the head boss at Starbucks said to workers who've been blowing off their back-to-office days.

(COMMERCIAL) [05:47:15]

ROMANS: All right. Your Romans' Numeral this morning, zero -- as in zero days a week.

All right. Apparently, some Starbucks workers have been exposed as office no-shows. Employees at corporate headquarters in Seattle -- they're supposed to be there in person, in the office at least one day per week.

An irritated CEO, Howard Schultz has now upped it to three days a week, noting in a memo to employees, quote, "From our badging data, it's clear that a good number of Starbucks Support Center partners are not meeting their minimum promise. Badge swipes don't lie." Three days a week now at the office."

All right, looking at markets around the world right now, Asian shares have closed for the week, and Asian shares have closed mixed. European shares have opened higher. And on Wall Street, stock index futures at this hour, to close out what has been a pretty good week, are barely moving.

U.S. stocks on a roll Thursday, closing higher after inflation slowed to a 6 1/2 percent rate last month. A six-month trend now of cooling inflation. The Nasdaq now on a five-day winning streak.

Investors hope all this means the Federal Reserve will cut the size of interest rate hikes in the future. The next rate decision comes February first.

Look inside those inflation numbers, though, and you still see some red-hot spots. Shelter is up 7 1/2 percent. Food at home is up over 10 percent. And eggs, up 60 percent since last year.

CNN's retail reporter Nathaniel Meyersohn is here. And I know there's some Avian flu problems. You also had some inflation in the pipeline for the egg market. But 60 percent -- that is a lot.

NATHANIEL MEYERSOHN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: So, 60 percent annually. And then you look at the cost of a dozen grade A large eggs. Those have jumped 138 percent, up from about $1.75 --


MEYERSOHN: -- to $4.25 in December. Some folks around the country are paying $6.00-$7.00 for a carton of eggs. So those days of 99-cent eggs are long gone.

And like you said, it's because of Avian flu that's killed about 50 million birds. It's one of the worst Avian flu outbreaks in American history.

Then we have higher energy and feed costs for producers. That's making its way down to consumers.

And demand is really high. Customers are baking and cooking, especially around the holidays. We're all using eggs and all that has pushed up prices.

ROMANS: What about grocery areas that are getting cheaper?

MEYERSOHN: So, there are not many. You look across the board and just about everything is getting more expensive. The egg prices are having an impact on baked goods, cookies --

ROMANS: Right.

MEYERSOHN: -- pies, so that's really showing up.

But there are a few areas. You look at meats. Those have dropped about -- you look at beef and veal, down 3.1 percent in December, annually. Bacon down 3.7 percent. And then pork roasts down 1.8 percent.

And you remember early in the pandemic we had all these supply shock to the meat -- to the meat industry, and so those prices jumped. But now they're down a little bit.


ROMANS: What other items are getting cheaper? I mean, I saw used car prices are starting to come down. There are some T.V.s. There are some areas that are getting better.

MEYERSOHN: There are a few areas that are getting better. We do see inflation, overall, start to moderate.

You -- if you're in the market for a new appliance -- new dishwasher -- those are down 0.6 percent annually. Women's dresses down 2.3 percent. And then, sports tickets down 1.5 percent.

ROMANS: Fascinating. All right, a lot in that -- in that inflation report.

Thanks so much, Nathaniel Meyersohn. Have a great weekend.

All right, let's bring in Dan Ives, managing director of Equity Research at Wedbush Securities. Dan, so nice to see you.

All right. So, this inflation report yesterday, to me, felt like it was the final verdict of the inflation peaking case here. And we're entering a new phase in 2023 for inflation that is starting to cool off and a Fed that might be able to slow down.

Do you agree?

DAN IVES, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF EQUITY RESEARCH, WEDBUSH SECURITIES (via Skype): Yes. I mean, I've been on the streets and this is the clock's about to strike midnight for the Fed. And despite all the talk -- I mean, I think it's a high game stakes of poker. The street's basically saying we're in the eighth-ninth inning of the rate hikes and that's why you're starting to see green across the board in terms of, especially, risk assets and tech stocks.

ROMANS: Yes. I mean, you tweeted yesterday and got my attention that this is a good story for risk assets for 2023 after a really rotten year last year.

Nasdaq is up, already, five percent this year. I mean, is there a risk here that Wall Street maybe underplays the inflation risk this year?

IVES: Look, it's possible. But, I mean, in my view, in decades covering tech -- I mean, right now, the New York City cab drivers (INAUDIBLE). And I think it's as under-owned as I've seen tech going back to 2009.

You look at the sort of perfect storm playing out despite the Fed's speak (PH). I believe it could be a sort of rip higher type rally for tech stocks. A lot of bad news baked in. And ultimately, the doves came out yesterday once that report hit.

ROMANS: Yes. I mean, I think it's good to remind people that the stock market is sort of like a leading indicator, right? I mean, all of that pain and frustration last year for investors was forecasting the uncertainty that is still in the books for this year. But a lot of investors are now looking beyond that and hoping that a Fed will start to slow down.

You know, CEOs say they're worried about a recession in 2023. But the Chamber of Commerce said this -- that got my attention -- yesterday that business is fed up with Washington -- listen.


SUZANNE CLARK, PRESIDENT AND CEO, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Businesses don't have the clarity or the certainty to plan past the next political cycle. It means our country won't be able to advance an agenda that extends beyond two or four years or pass the policies needed to position us for our future.


ROMANS: What are your thoughts on changeover of control in the House and a looming debt ceiling fight that could be coming this summer? Are you worried at all about Washington in the mix here?

IVES: I think, really, the Beltway -- that 202 area code -- has just added noise and, I'd say, uncertainty in terms of the goal market. You're seeing it in I.T. spending cycles. I think some of that uncertainty definitely has also been a black cloud over the market and it's something now that needs to play out. The last thing investors want to see, especially in this Fed hike backdrop that's now starting to end, is more uncertainty.

But I think when it's all said and done, in our opinion, tech stocks are up 20 percent this year and I think we're starting to see the smoke clear.

ROMANS: So what is your advice for investors who feel scarred after last year, Dan, and may be cautious about deploying their dry powder?

IVES: Yes, no doubt. I think for everyone it's based on risk. But I think if I look back -- you look back to 2002, you look back to 2009, I compare it similar to what we saw last year. I mean, the Fourth Industrial Revolution in tech is not ending.

Tech obviously got repriced. You have winners and losers. But high- quality tech -- the Microsofts, the Googles, the Apples, and some of the other big tech and software plays -- I think now is not the time to throw in the towel. We are starting now the next growth cycle over the coming years.

ROMANS: All right, Dan Ives. Have a great weekend. Thanks for dropping by this morning. Nice to see --

IVES: You, too.

ROMANS: -- you.

All right, shock and heartbreak after the death of Lisa Marie Presley. A look back at the life of Elvis' only child ahead.

And the special counsel appointed to investigate President Biden's document scandal -- who is Robert Hur? Coming up on "CNN THIS MORNING."



ROMANS: All right. Our Top of the Morning, the top songs downloading on iTunes right now.


SHAKIRA, COLOMBIAN SINGER: (Singing foreign language).


ROMANS: Shakira at number one. Her brand-new song was released just two days ago.

Here's number two.




ROMANS: Miley Cyrus dropped that one just last night. It's called "Flowers."

And number three --




ROMANS: Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero." Say no more.

All right, are UFOs evidence that we're not alone in the universe, or are they just trash? The Pentagon says 350 UFOs have been reported since March 2021, the majority from Navy and Air Force pilots who spotted them on duty.

So far, 163 of the reports have been preliminarily identified as balloon or balloon entities. A handful of others are believed to be drones, birds, weather events, or debris. Like, think floating plastic bags.

That leaves 171 reported UFO sightings still unexplained, so maybe the truth.