Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 02-06-2017
DOW – 19 = 20,052
SPX – 4 = 2292
NAS – 3 = 5663
RUT – 11 = 1366
10 Y – .08 = 2.41%
OIL – .72 = 53.11
GOLD + 15.70 = 1236.20
Traders around the world seem uncertain about whether to buy or sell. European markets were mixed. Most Asian markets ended the day with gains. This follows a week where U.S. stocks dropped and then slowly climbed back up. The Dow Jones industrial average ended the week with a 0.1% dip. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq each edged up by 0.1% over the week.
Big business in the UK is starting to feel the pain from Brexit. An Ipsos Mori poll of senior executives at more than 100 of the top 500 companies in the UK found that 58% of businesses believe they are starting to feel the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
A decision on a Scottish referendum is coming soon. When the U.K. triggers Article 50 to leave the EU, it might also trigger a fresh independence referendum. Scotland – one of the United Kingdom’s four nations along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland – voted to keep its EU membership last June, but will leave the EU because the UK voted to do so. The British parliament could technically block the move, but to do so would likely provoke a constitutional crisis.
Top Euro Union diplomats have vowed to uphold sanctions against Russia for destabilizing Ukraine, despite US intentions to ease those sanctions. The EU imposed a series of economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia in 2014. Over the past week, a flare-up in hostilities has erupted between the Ukrainian military and Russia-backed separatists, with each accusing the other of a new wave of shelling. Over the weekend, President Trump committed to meet with NATO leaders in Europe in May.
A federal appeals court rejected early Sunday morning a request from the Justice Department to immediately reinstate an executive order on immigration and refugees, asking for more court filings before it rules on the matter. Airlines in Europe and the Middle East respond to the suspension by allowing passengers from countries that had been blocked to fly.
Ninety-seven tech companies, including Netflix, Twitter, Apple, and Facebook filed an amicus brief on Sunday night against the executive order that places an immigration ban on citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. The brief states that the executive order “inflicts significant harm on American business, innovation, and growth” and “makes it more difficult and expensive for U.S. companies to recruit, hire, and retain some of the world’s best employees.”
More than any other industry, tech companies hire the lions’ share of the 85,000 foreign workers allowed into the US annually under the H1-B visa program. The H1-B is a temporary visa intended to bring in foreign professionals with college degrees and specialized skills to fill jobs when qualified Americans cannot be found.
A research report from Goldman Sachs estimates that nearly one million H-1B visa holders now reside in the US, and they account for up to 13 percent of American technology jobs. The big tech companies have pressed for increases in the annual quotas, saying there are not enough Americans with the skills they need.
But many tech workers see the H-1B program as a way to pay temporary workers less; or ship their jobs abroad, or at least to bring in workers from abroad, train them, and then ship the jobs offshore.
And it’s not just tech workers. Each year, more than 6,000 medical trainees from foreign countries participate in medical residency programs through J-1 non-immigrant visas, according to the American Association of Medical College.
Once they complete their residency, physicians can either return to their home country for two years before they are eligible to re-enter the U.S. through a different immigration pathway, such as an H1-B worker visa, or they can apply for a Conrad 30 J-1 Visa Waiver. This allows them to extend their stay in the U.S. if they commit to serving in rural and under-served areas for three years.
The point being, don’t expect a quick resolution to a complex problem.
This past Friday we focused on the January Jobs Report, but there was some other news of note. President Trump signed two executive orders dealing with Wall Street. The first calls for the Treasury secretary to conduct a review over the next 120 days of regulations stemming from the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
So, once again the banksters that caused the meltdown of 2008 will oversee policing their industry. What could go wrong?
The second order calls for a review of the Department of Labor’s “fiduciary rule,” which requires investment professionals to act in the best interest of their clients, rather than seek the highest profits for themselves. The orders don’t do much by themselves to roll back reforms but they do offer details on how the financial industry is likely to receive favored status over the next 4 years.
The order on the fiduciary rule is more like a memo; no extension was granted, and no guidance about seeking a stay to the rule. Nothing in the final version of this memorandum delays the fiduciary rule; still, it was enough for the acting Labor Secretary to state the Department of Labor “will now consider its legal options to delay the applicability date.”
Right now, the date is April 10. And apparently, no matter the administration, government continues to move at a glacial pace.
Over the past month, several Fed officials have openly discussed the need for the central bank to reduce its bond holdings, which it amassed as part of its quantitative easing during and after the financial crisis. There is some concern the Fed will start its drawdown as soon as this year, which has refocused attention on its $1.75 trillion stash of mortgage-backed securities.
In the past year alone, the Fed bought $387 billion of mortgage bonds just to maintain its holdings. Moody’s Analytics estimates that if the Fed gets out of the bond-buying business as the economy strengthens, it could help lift 30-year mortgage rates past 6 percent within three years.
Bill Gross, in his monthly newsletter says that other central banks have stepped up bond buying as the Fed has cut back, but when those central banks stop buying bonds, there will be a bear market in bonds that will ripple out.
The global central bank balance sheet has surpassed $12 trillion, Gross said. At the same time, Fitch Ratings recently reported that global sovereign debt with negative yields still surpasses $9 trillion.
Even if central banks remain accommodative, it only serves to inflate asset prices without boosting economic growth, creating “an unhealthy capitalistic equilibrium that one day must be reckoned with.”
JPMorgan has received approval and license to underwrite corporate bonds in China’s interbank bond market, making it the first U.S.-headquartered bank to do so. China is the third largest bond market in the world with $6.3 trillion outstanding at the end of 2016, with the interbank bond market accounting for over 90%.
U.S. energy companies added oil rigs for a 13th week in the last 14. Despite OPEC cuts, U.S. crude inventories increased more than expected last week. With output being cut, more investors are betting on rising prices despite indicators such as the Baker Hughes rig count pointing to increased U.S. supply. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission says investors raised their net long U.S. crude futures and options positions in the week to Jan. 31 to a record 412,380 lots.
Canadian department store operator Hudson’s Bay, which also owns the Saks Fifth Avenue stores, has made a takeover approach to U.S. department store chain Macy’s. Hudson’s Bay could raise equity and debt against its real estate portfolio, which could be worth $14 billion, to fund the deal. The company could also bring in a partner.
The economic calendar is a bit light this week, with the JOLTS report serving as the highlight alongside the preliminary reading on consumer confidence from the University of Michigan. But we will stay busy with earnings reports. Analysts will be looking for S&P 500 companies to maintain the 7.5% average profit increase that has marked an encouraging fourth-quarter earnings season so far and will be needed to sustain the market rally.
Tyson Foods reported stronger-than-expected first-quarter earnings and sales and raised its annual outlook, citing strong beef and pork sales.
Toyota Motor reported a sharp decline in net profit for its fiscal third quarter, as the relatively strong yen continued to weigh on earnings. Toyota and other Japanese exporters are being hammered by the yen’s strength. A U.S. dollar bought 109 Yen on average in the third quarter; a year earlier, it bought 121 Yen.
Toyota has a glut of used cars in the U.S.–fueled by years of record sales–which is weighing on new car prices. Toyota said it is ramping up production of more-profitable trucks and sport-utility vehicles to increase profit.
Toyota Motor and Suzuki Motor said they plan to trade expertise in parts supplies and R&D. Any deal could see Toyota benefit from a supply chain that has helped Suzuki dominate India’s massive auto market, while Suzuki could hope to access Toyota’s innovations in automated driving, artificial intelligence and low-emission vehicles.
Hasbro’s revenue was helped in the fourth quarter by surging sales of products in its girls’ category, which include its line of Disney Princess and Frozen dolls. Profit and revenue came in above Wall Street’s expectations.
Tiffany & Co. abruptly replaced Chief Executive Officer Frederic Cumenal after disappointing financial results, just hours before the jewelry chain introduced a new campaign with the first Super Bowl ad in its history. The shake-up follows the departure of the jeweler’s top designer three weeks ago, and weak holiday sales that sent the stock tumbling.
Google used the Super Bowl to plug its Google Home connectivity service, but the TV commercial apparently confused the systems in homes of those who already have it. For them, Google Home went wacko. Apparently, the home systems heard the TV broadcasts calling its name, and it became befuddled. OK Google do not listen to the commercial.