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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Heading into the Holiday

Financial Review

Heading into the Holiday

DOW – 167 = 21,287
SPX – 20 = 2419
NAS – 90 = 6144
RUT – 9 = 1416
10 Y + .05 = 2.27%
OIL + .12 = 44.86
GOLD – 3.40 = 1246.40
BITCOIN – 0.21% = 2556.09 USD
ETHEREUM – 4.42% = 289.77

We had a nice trend so far, this year. The stock market has been moving forward in small, steady gains. Volatility has been low, almost imperceptible. The markets just kept moving higher. When we have had a pullback, it was followed the next day by a rally, even if there was no conviction.

That was the case this week. Down on Tuesday, back up on Wednesday. Today throws a wrench in the pattern, with the S&P 500 and the Dow industrials suffering their worst daily percentage drops in about six weeks. The tech sector was the worst performing group today. There’s a lot more volatility in tech this month and that’s in part due to stretched P/Es.

At this point, it’s just a couple of down days, and we are heading into a long holiday weekend, a good time to take profits off the table and enjoy a barbeque without worries. Still, valuations are high and it’s one of the longest bull markets in history. Bull markets don’t last forever.

June has not been kind to the FAANG stocks, – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google, which were market leaders and then hit a down draft. There is no question the FAANGs have become pricey. The market caps are so huge they dominate the indexes. But markets can stay exuberant and irrational for a very long time. And this is not the first time we have seen a sell-off in the FAANGs, only to watch them move higher.

Today, money was rotating from tech and into the financials after the big banks passed the Fed stress tests and now can offer bigger dividends and buybacks. JPMorgan, the nation’s largest lender, said it’s boosting its quarterly dividend 12 percent and may increase share repurchases to $19.4 billion over the next 12 months — roughly 90 percent more than in the prior year.

Citigroup plans to double its dividend and may purchase up to $15.6 billion. Bank of America hiked its dividend 60 percent and will buy back up to $12 billion. Shares of all three rose at least 2 percent in early trading in New York. They, along with Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley, may collectively buy as much as $64 billion in stock. Goldman Sachs has yet to make an announcement.

The Commerce Department posted its third and sort of final revision to first quarter Gross Domestic Product, and the revision came in higher; up 0.2% to 1.4%, instead of the 1.2% reported last month. The government had pegged first-quarter growth at a paltry 0.7% in its first estimate in April.

First-quarter economic growth was boosted by an upward revision to consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Consumer spending rose at a 1.1 percent pace, the weakest reading since the second quarter of 2013 but almost double the 0.6 percent reported last month. A sustained average growth rate of 3 percent has not been achieved in the United States since the 1990s.

The U.S. economy has grown an average 2 percent since 2000 and it expanded only 1.6 percent in 2016, which was the weakest growth in five years. Initial signs that economic growth re-accelerated sharply in the second quarter have also faltered in the face of recent disappointing data on retail sales, manufacturing production and inflation. Housing data has also been mixed.

Exports for the period were revised to show a 7.0 percent rate of growth from the previously reported 5.8 percent. Exports in the fourth quarter fell at a rate of 4.5 percent. Business spending on equipment was revised to show it increasing at a rate of 7.8 percent in the January-March period rather than the 7.2 percent previously estimated.

The government also reported that corporate profits after tax with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments fell at an annual rate of 2.7 percent in the first quarter after rising at a 2.3 percent pace in the prior three months.

The Bank of International Settlements, or BIS, is the central bank for the central bankers of the world. According the BIS’s annual report, the global economy faces four risks, “(i) financial cycle risks for financial stability; (ii) risks to consumption growth from household debt; (iii) risks to investment from weak productivity growth and high corporate debt; and (iv) risks from rising protectionism.”

From the report:
“These risks may appear independent, but they are not. For instance, policy tightening to contain an inflation spurt could trigger, or amplify, a financial bust in the more vulnerable countries… Indeed, an overarching issue is the global economy’s sensitivity to higher interest rates given the continued accumulation of debt in relation to GDP, complicating the policy normalization process.

“As another example, a withdrawal into trade protectionism could spark financial strains and make higher inflation more likely. And the emergence of systemic financial strains yet again, or simply much slower growth, could heighten the protectionist threat beyond critical levels.”

Of all those risks, protectionism is the only one a government can fully control. A government can choose to engage in global free market capitalism, or it can aggressively try to distort the market by blocking competing goods and services. It can either work amicably with neighbors and allies, or it can create tension felt across the globe.

A revised version of President Trump’s travel ban approved by the Supreme Court is set to take effect at 8:00 p.m. ET on Thursday. The justices implemented an exemption for travelers from six-Muslim majority countries with a “bona fide relationship” to people or entities in the US.

The Trump administration has adopted a narrow definition of “bona fide relationship.” According to guidelines the Trump administration has sent to US embassies and consulates, only a family member who is a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, or sibling of US residents will be allowed to enter the country.

Fiancées, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and other extended family members are not considered to have “close familial ties”. And if you think this might lead to mass confusion, well…

The Congressional Budget Office has come out with a long-term analysis of Senate Republicans’ health-care legislation found that the bill would slash spending on Medicaid by about 35 percent over the next 20 years. The analysis follows a 10-year look by the agency released earlier this week.

The new CBO estimate doesn’t include a projection of how many people would be covered under the Republican bill. The CBO estimate shows that states would be forced to make trade-offs in how to allocate their far more limited funds.

Drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance scrapped its deal to buy Rite Aid after failing to win antitrust approval, but said it would instead buy nearly half of the smaller rival’s U.S. stores for $5.18 billion. Rite Aid’s shares plunged about 28 percent to $2.85, while Walgreens shares were up 1 percent at $77.97.

Walgreens also ended a related deal to sell as many as 1,200 Rite Aid stores to Fred’s, sending Fred’s shares down 19 percent. Walgreens’ plan to buy 2,186 Rite Aid stores accomplishes many of the same goals as the merger – including eliminating Rite Aid as a rival – but does so in a way that makes it harder for the FTC to take the companies to court to stop the transaction.

The FTC will review the new deal. Walgreens also reported better-than-expected profit and sales for the third quarter, helped by a rise in prescription volumes in its U.S. pharmacy business. The company also authorized a $5 billion buyback program and raised the lower end of its full-year profit forecast.

Nike reported quarterly revenue and profit that topped Street estimates as the company kept a lid on costs and saw greater demand in Western Europe, China and emerging markets. Shares of the Dow component were up nearly 3 percent.

Britain intends to subject Rupert Murdoch’s takeover of European pay-TV group Sky to a lengthy in-depth investigation after finding that Twenty-First Century Fox’s $15 billion deal risks giving the media mogul too much power over the news agenda.

The proposed entity would have the third largest total reach of any news provider – lower only than the BBC and ITN – and would, uniquely, span news coverage on television, radio, in newspapers and online. Regulators will make a final decision on July 14, giving Fox two weeks to address concerns.

Blue Apron shares debuted today. The IPO stumbled but did not fall. Blue Apron’s 30-million share offering was priced at $10 per share late on Wednesday, after the company slashed its valuation expectations by a third. Shares gained 1% in the first day of trading.

Blue Apron spent roughly 18 percent of its $795 million revenue in 2016 on marketing, posting a net loss of $54 million. It has also faced steep costs of building out delivery infrastructure for fresh food. The biggest problem for Blue Apron might be Amazon-Whole Foods, which looks well-positioned to offer competition.

This should be a very interesting Fourth of July celebration in Las Vegas. Recreational marijuana becomes legal to buy Saturday in Nevada. That doesn’t mean it can be smoked everywhere only in private homes, yards or porches.

It’s prohibited in casinos, bars, restaurants, parks, concerts and on any federal property. You can’t walk down the street, or the Strip, smoking a joint. Also, prohibited in all forms at airports. No driving while stoned. And what’s smoked in Vegas stays in Vegas.

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