Anticipation of Consequences
DOW + 138 = 17,050
SPX + 17 = 2013
NAS + 19 = 4810
10 YR YLD + .05 = 2.11%
OIL + 1.86 = 49.67
GOLD – 6.80 – 1140.00
SILV – .39 = 15.77
This morning was full of anticipation: earnings season scheduled to kick off after the closing bell, the FOMC scheduled to release minutes from their September policy meeting, the House of Representatives scheduled to select a new Speaker of the House. Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences.
Earnings season is underway; the unofficial start is when Alcoa reports; ticker symbol AA, they lead the pack alphabetically, and then it just became tradition. The company reported adjusted third-quarter earnings of 7 cents a share on revenue of $5.57 billion. Analysts surveyed by FactSet had estimated earnings of 13 cents a share on revenue of $5.66 billion. Alcoa indicated that China’s industrial economy is slowing more rapidly than expected, as the aluminum producer slashed its production outlook for the country for cars, trucks and construction. And just like that, we have a trend.
Short interest has hit a peak. Short interest on companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) just hit a seven-year high, going back to the 2008 financial crisis. Short interest, or a bet that prices will drop, tends to increase as stocks are falling, and peak when they’ve bottomed; and so a peak in short interest is often seen as a contrarian indicator. Of course, short interest could still increase from these levels.
The Fed published the minutes of its September FOMC meeting. Most Federal Open Market Committee members still think an interest rate hike is possible this year. According to the Minutes from the September meeting, the Fed decided to wait on concerns about sluggish inflation and global economic growth, particularly in China. It also did not want to hike rates with inflation below its 2% target, as this could have hurt its credibility. The Fed remarked that the pullback in equities in August was likely because investors believed stocks were expensive.
Most thought that their goal of healthy labor market had been met or would be met by the end of the year. That view may be different now that the September jobs report, released after the Fed meeting, showed slowing growth. Fed officials decided it would be “prudent” to wait for more data to confirm the economy was growing at a moderate rate and labor market conditions had improved further.
House Republicans were scheduled to gather today to elect a new Speaker after John Boehner abruptly announced two weeks ago that he plans to retire from Congress at the end of October. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was expected to be the front-runner for the Speaker’s job, but before the vote this morning, McCarthy dropped out of the race.
Yesterday the Freedom Caucus, a group of about 40 of the House’s most conservative members announced it was throwing its support behind Rep. Daniel Webster, a Florida sophomore considered a longshot challenger to McCarthy. That comes three days after Jason Chaffetz, a three-term Utah Republican and Chair of the Oversight Committee announced he, too, was challenging McCarthy. A full House vote is scheduled for the end of the month. House Republicans tweeted that the leadership election would be postponed.
As the politicians sort through the chaos, there is still work to be done. The Treasury Department has said it will exhaust its authority to borrow money to fund the government on Nov. 5. If Congress does not raise or suspend the government’s statutory borrowing limit, the government would default on its debt days later, risking economic chaos, soaring interest rates and plunging stock prices. Then, on Dec. 11, a stopgap spending bill expires. Without congressional action, much of the government will shut down. And don’t forget an October 29 deadline to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, which funds many construction projects across the country. With leadership elections occupying much attention, the window to get something done grows smaller.
Brazil is facing political and economic crisis; Brazil’s Federal Accounts Court has ruled President Dilma Rousseff manipulated government budget figures in 2014, and the nation’s highest court permitted a lawsuit to annul last year’s presidential election. The move paves the way for a possible impeachment, although any ouster would likely take months and has no guarantee of succeeding.
Jobless claims fell by 13,000 to 263,000 in the week ended Oct. 3, the fewest since July 18. The four-week average of claims, a less-volatile measure than the weekly figure, dropped to 267,500.
Revolving credit continues to show life, up a solid $4.0 billion in August for a sixth straight gain. Gains in this reading, which have been scarce this recovery, perhaps suggest that consumers are growing less reluctant to run up their credit cards.
The United Auto Workers union has reached a tentative deal with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on a new four-year contract, averting a strike of the automaker’s U.S. operations. Local UAW leaders will gather in Detroit on Friday to hear details of the deal, while Fiat Chrysler’s 40,000 union workers will have to vote again to finalize the agreement. If the pact is ratified, the UAW will likely use it as a template for negotiations with General Motors and Ford.
A Congressional hearing into the Volkswagen emissions cheating scandal continued today. Volkswagen’s top U.S. executive, Michael Horn, repeatedly apologized but didn’t reveal details of who was behind the scam or who knew what, when. Horn was grilled on questions he claimed to not have answers to and the lawmakers didn’t get the answers they were looking for. In Germany, police and prosecutors swooped in on Volkswagen factories and employees’ private homes in an early morning raid to gather evidence about who was behind the carmaker’s decision to cheat on diesel emissions tests.
Doubts have been raised over the level of Volkswagen reported death and injury claims in the U.S. over the last decade as the numbers have been so good as to make some industry experts question their validity. Already this year, Honda has been fined in the U.S. for underreporting claims and Volkswagen’s reported claims are significantly below the number Honda was fined for.
Dell, the world’s third largest PC maker, and the cloud storage company EMC Corp. are in discussions about a potential merger, for what could be one of the biggest technology deals in history. An agreement could be reached within a week, according to the New York Times. Of course, it’s also possible the talks won’t lead to any deal at all. It remains unclear if the two companies are discussing a full or partial takeover. EMC has a market capitalization of $50 billion, and it owns the software-development company Pivotal and enterprise-security firm RSA, as well as 80% of the virtualization company VMware.
After triggering a buy-sell clause in a deal with Michael Jackson’s estate, Sony appears ready to sell its half of the world’s biggest music publisher – Sony/ATV Music Publishing (a company worth about $2 billion). Sony and Jackson – and after his 2009 death, his estate – have jointly owned the company since 1995, each with a 50% stake. The publisher has a catalog that has copyrights to most of the Beatles’ songs, among many others including those by the Rolling Stones and Taylor Swift.
Just a few days after Google officially became a subsidiary of Alphabet, its new holding company, Alphabet has acquired the domain name abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.com. Google announced its restructuring in August. At the time, Google unveiled its website with a URL of abc.xyz. A Google spokesperson said, “We realized we missed a few letters in abc.xyz, so we’re just being thorough.” The purpose of the new domain is unclear given that the page did not load on this morning.
Netflix is raising prices for the second time in two years. The company’s “standard” tier of service will increase by $1, to $9.99 a month, starting November 18. Prices for its “basic” and “premium” tiers remain the same.
Remember Etsy, the online site for handcrafted stuff? Amazon is looking to crush Etsy by announcing its own marketplace specifically targeted at factory free, handmade goods.
Urban Outfitters has asked salaried workers at the company’s home office to “volunteer” for extra weekend shifts at a new fulfillment center. The picking, packing and preparing that’s required of voluntary workers are, in fact, jobs that normally pay wages. Urban Outfitters says many wage employees offered to pitch in, but hourly-wage workers were excluded from the voluntary work because it might violate labor laws.
Bill Gross sued his former employer, Pimco, for improperly firing him. Gross says his ouster was driven by greed. Gross, a billionaire, is demanding a jury trial and damages of no less than $200 million.
Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize in literature. Swedish scientist Tomas Lindahl, American Paul Modrich and U.S.-Turkish national Aziz Sancar won the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for showing how cells repair damaged DNA, work that can be used to develop new cancer treatments. The Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded to Irish-born William Campbell, Satoshi Omura of Japan and Tu Youyou – the first-ever Chinese medicine laureate for discovering drugs against malaria and other parasitic diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people every year.
Takaaki Kajita of Japan and Arthur McDonald of Canada won the Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for discovering that tiny particles called neutrinos change identities as they whiz through the universe, proving that they have mass; by uncovering the “chameleon-like” nature of neutrinos, the laureates had solved a long-standing puzzle in particle physics that could alter our grasp of the cosmos. Tomorrow, the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced. Anticipation builds.