Make Way for May
DOW – 40 = 20,940
SPX – 4 = 2384
NAS – 1 = 6047
RUT – 16 = 1400
10 Y – .02 = 2.28%
OIL + .21 = 49.18
GOLD + 4.20 = 1268.70
Looking back on the week, we had a couple of strong moves Monday and Tuesday, following the French election over the weekend – the rally was based on an absence of bad news. After that, markets looked for good news and floundered.
The tax reform plan failed to impress. We had some good earnings reports, which helped to lift a few stocks – notably a few of the big tech stocks, and that helped the Nasdaq Composite climb above 6,000 to new record highs. For the week, the Dow rose 1.9 percent, the S&P gained 1.5 percent and the Nasdaq rose 2.3 percent.
During April, the Dow gained 1.3 percent, the S&P rose 0.9 percent and the Nasdaq jumped 2.3 percent.
Yesterday, Alphabet, Amazon, and Microsoft reported earnings. Alphabet and Amazon crushed it. Microsoft was a slight disappointment. From the close of the market on Thursday to session highs on Friday, all three stocks hit an all-time high. That added more than $30.6 billion to Alphabet’s Class A market capitalization, $14.2 billion to Amazon’s market capitalization, and $6.7 billion to Microsoft’s market cap, reaching about $52 billion between the 3.
The stocks later pared gains, falling below their peaks. By the end of the day on Friday, the trio were just $27.4 billion richer, with Alphabet seeing $22.75 billion of those gains. The gains left both Amazon and Alphabet closing in on share prices of $1,000.
Amazon went public in 1997; if you had been brilliant enough to invest $10,000 at the IPO price of $18, and patiently held, you would be sitting on just over $4.8 million. Amazon’s market capitalization reached about $442 billion, pushing founder Jeff Bezos’ wealth closer to the richest in the world.
Alphabet and Microsoft had market caps of about $636 billion and $529 billion, respectively.
The US economy expanded at the slowest pace in three years as weak auto sales and lower home-heating bills dragged down consumer spending, offsetting a pickup in investment led by housing and oil drilling. Gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced, rose at a 0.7 percent annualized rate after advancing 2.1 percent in the prior quarter.
Consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, rose 0.3 percent, the worst performance since 2009. There is a tendency for weak economic growth in the first quarter; the past few years winter storms were blamed for the declines; this year, warm winter weather is being blamed.
Since 2000, expansion in the first quarter of each year has averaged 1 percent, compared with 2.2 percent for the rest of each year. The pattern I recognize is that consumers get tapped out over the holidays and must tighten their belts in the first quarter.
The good news is that the unemployment rate is low, people have jobs, there is no immediate economic dilemma, and the economy should rebound as we move through the rest of the year. The bad news is that the growth trajectory looks a lot like the past few years, solid but sluggish. And in the background, inflation is eating into consumers’ wallets.
Real disposable personal income rose at a 1 percent pace in the period, the weakest since the fourth quarter of 2013. The report also showed price pressures were picking up. The GDP price index rose 2.3 percent in the first quarter. A measure of inflation tied to consumer spending and excluding volatile food and energy costs was up 2 percent, the fastest in four quarters.
And there is a good chance consumers will loosen the strings on the pocketbook in the second quarter. The University of Michigan consumer confidence survey shows consumers feeling good. The current conditions index in April was at its second-highest since 2005, and consumer expectations for inflation in the year ahead, and in five to 10 years, were unchanged from the prior month.
The employment cost index, released by the Labor Department, showed a 2.4 percent annual rise — the fastest pace in two years – and climbed 0.8 percent from the prior quarter for the strongest rate since the end of 2007. The wages and salaries component also increased 0.8 percent in the first three months of the year, the most since the second quarter of 2008.
The Federal Reserve FOMC policy meeting is next week and it is widely expected the Fed will leave interest rates at current levels while maintaining guidance for 2 more rate hikes this year.
The federal government will continue for at least one more week. Faced with a budget deadline of midnight tonight, legislators could not agree on the details of a budget plan to keep the doors open and the lights on, but they did agree to kick the can down the road. Congress approved a one-week extension to agree on a spending bill to fund the government through September.
Leaders of both parties say they’re close to agreement on a broader spending plan after Republicans signaled they would accept Democratic demands that the Trump administration promise to continue paying Obamacare subsidies and drop its bid for immediate funds for a wall on the Mexican border.
House GOP leaders abandoned efforts to vote this week on their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare for lack of support in their party. A vote is still possible next week.
Brazil is on strike, a nationwide general strike to protest President Michel Temer’s austerity measures, hitting public transport and closing schools, factories, banks and other businesses in every state. Police clashed with demonstrators in several cities, firing tear gas in efforts to clear roadways blocked by burning barricades.
Protesters also obstructed the entrances of airports and metro stations. Temer’s efforts to pass pension and labor reforms have deeply angered many Brazilians. Temer has proposed a minimum age for retirement. The lower house of Congress approved a bill this week to weaken labor laws by relaxing restrictions on outsourcing and temporary contracts.
GM, Ford, Toyota, and Mercedes all halted production at factories in Sao Paulo. the strike was strategically concentrated in public transportation so that even people who might want to get to work could not.
Young Europeans are sick of the status quo in Europe. And they’re ready to take to the streets to bring about change, according to a recent survey. Around 580,000 respondents in 35 countries were asked the question: Would you actively participate in large-scale uprising against the generation in power if it happened in the next days or months? More than half of 18- to 34-year-olds said yes.
A U.S. appeals court has blocked health insurer Anthem’s bid to merge with Cigna, upholding a lower court’s decision that the $54 billion deal should not be allowed because it would lead to higher prices for healthcare. The ruling effectively kills the proposed merger that was opposed by the U.S. Justice Department, 11 states and a district court judge after consumers, medical professionals and others objected to it.
In the end, Cigna itself tried to back out. Anthem and Cigna are suing each other. Cigna has sought to abandon the merger and force Anthem to pay a $1.85 billion breakup fee while Anthem filed a lawsuit to force its smaller rival to go through with the combination.
A consortium led by private equity firms Hillhouse Capital Group and CDH Investments offered on Friday to buy Belle International Holdings in a deal valuing the entire Hong Kong-listed shoe retailer at about $6.8 billion.
After months of speculation about whether Time, Inc. would be acquired, its board of directors has decided not to sell the company. Following the news, Time Inc. shares were down more than 19%.
Two initial public offerings went opposite directions Friday, as software company Cloudera shares shot up above its issue price and car-vending machine company Carvana saw its shares slump. Cloudera gained 20%, while Carvana dropped 26%.
Gasoline demand in the US dropped 2.4% in February compared with a year earlier, the second straight monthly decline. Still, coming in at 8.9 million barrels per day. The price of oil has nearly doubled from 12 months ago – a powerful motivation to conserve, but the lower demand also points to less economic activity.
Oil prices settled a bit higher today but still registered a second straight monthly decline. The problem for oil companies is that oil has spent a very long time consolidating around $50 to $55 and has now dropped under that range. Meaning any move higher will face strong resistance.
Meanwhile, any move below $47 would break through support. For oil companies, they have largely based their guidance for 2017 on prices in the $60 a barrel range.
Rising crude prices helped Chevron and Exxon Mobil easily beat analysts’ quarterly profit expectations. Chevron and Exxon expanded production in their American shale portfolios during the quarter, with both deciding the low-cost fields offered an easy opportunity to boost profit. They have laid out plans to increase drilling in those fields this year.
Exxon reported quarterly profit more than doubling to $4 billion, even as production fell 4 percent. Chevron swung to a $2.6 billion quarterly profit and turned cash flow positive. Chevron’s results were helped by $2.1 billion in asset sales. The company has sold more than $5 billion in assets since last year and is seeking buyers for its Canadian oil sands business.
General Motors recorded its highest ever profit for a first quarter. US sales of Chevrolet trucks and crossovers rose 3.5 percent and 12 percent, respectively, during the quarter, while GMC truck and crossover sales jumped almost 10 percent. GM’s net profit rose 33 percent in the first quarter to $2.6 billion, or $1.70 per share, beating estimates of $1.48 per share.