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Morning in Arizona
Rainbows over Canyonlands - Dave Stoker

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Financial Review

Veterans Day 2015

DOW – 55 = 17,702
SPX – 6 = 2075
NAS – 16 = 5067
10 YR YLD closed 2.34%
OIL – 1.14 = 43.07
GOLD – 3.00 = 1087.20
SILV – .09 = 14.45

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” Those were the words of President Wilson in 1919, one year after hostilities ended in World War I on this date in 1918, in the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month. Back then it was called Armistice Day. Today we call it Veterans Day. And for all the veterans – Thank you.

The 11th day of November is celebrated in China as Singles Day, symbolized by the four lonely 1s of 11/11. Apparently, this is kind of the anti-Valentine’s Day. Alibaba broke its own record for sales on China’s Singles Day, the world’s largest Internet shopping event, generating more than $9.3 billion in gross merchandise volume by midday Wednesday. Sales now look on track to hit $13 billion. More records: In the first eight minutes of this year’s sale, the company posted more than $1 billion in sales, topping last year’s 17 minutes to hit the billion-dollar mark.

AB InBev has completed an agreement to buy SABMiller for $105 billion, one of the largest mergers in corporate history. Under terms of the deal, SABMiller will sell a 58% stake in its MillerCoors joint venture to partner Molson Coors for $12 billion. A combined AB Inbev-SABMiller would have controlled close to 70% of the U.S. beer market, so the sale of the U.S. division was seen as a concession to competition authorities. In other brewing news, shares in Carlsberg A/S rose as much as 8.7 percent after the beer-maker announced a cost-cutting plan which will see it shed about 2,000 employees.

Iraqi oil puts pressure on shale; 19 million barrels of oil are due to arrive by ship from Iraq in American ports this month, the biggest influx from that country since June 2012, as OPEC members continue to defend market share in the face of low oil prices. The tactic seems to be working as yesterday the Energy Information Administration cut its U.S. crude oil production forecast for 2016 by 1 percent to 8.77 million barrels a day. The American Petroleum Institute said Tuesday that inventories rose by 6.3 million barrels last week. This all adds to concerns about oversupply. Crude oil fell to the lowest level in nearly three months.

Britain’s relationship with the EU is working but the Bank of England Governor Mark Carney says they will do whatever is needed to adapt should Britons vote to leave the bloc in a referendum. Britain is due to vote to stay in the EU before the end of 2017. The announcement came as U.K. unemployment fell to the lowest level in more than seven years, dropping to 5.3% in the third quarter. Also on tap: ECB chief Mario Draghi will deliver a speech today at the Bank of England’s Open Forum.

Online orders for Apple’s iPad Pro started today. The 12.9 inch-screen tablet, aimed in large part at business users and creative pros, will start at $799 but costs more than $1,000 if buyers want a keyboard and stylus included. Yesterday, Apple shares fell 3.1% after a Credit Suisse report said Apple had cut its orders for iPhone 6 components by as much as 10%.

Meanwhile, Apple is in talks with banks in the US about creating its own mobile-to-mobile payments service that sounds a lot like PayPal’s Venmo app. The app would reportedly let people send payments to each other directly from their phones, and automatically take it out of their checking accounts on the back end. While Apple already has its own payments system thanks to Apple Pay, the service so far has been mobile-to-merchant, and the mobile-to-mobile space has largely been dominated by PayPal’s Venmo app, but there is competition from Facebook’s Messenger app, Snapchat, and Square.

Macy’s shares plunged by as much as 14% after the department-store chain said its sales growth was weak because of muted consumer demand. Macy’s also lowered its guidance for 2015 earnings per share. Sales fell 5% to $5.87 billion, below the expectation for $6.1 billion. Bad news for Macy’s could be great news for customers, the company’s revenues have plunged, which means year-end sales are likely to be fantastic.

The New York state attorney general has ordered the fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel to stop accepting bets in New York, saying that the operations were essentially illegal gambling. The AG said the fantasy sites were considered gambling because customers “are clearly placing bets on events outside of their control or influence, specifically on the real-game performance of professional athletes.” The state of Nevada took a similar action in mid-October, with the Nevada Gaming Control Board saying the companies had to cease operations in the state.

DraftKings and FanDuel have indicated they would continue to let customers play while they contest the order in New York. Four smaller daily fantasy sports sites: DailyMVP, DraftDay, DraftOps, and MondoGoal Trading say they will stop letting users from New York enter their paid contests.

Nomura lowered its price target on Valeant Pharmaceuticals to $175 from $220. Nomura had been one of the most bullish on the company. The analyst for Nomura wrote: “Valeant’s business update call did not address all our outstanding questions; however, management’s willingness to be as open as possible in its responses was a positive first step towards rebuilding credibility with investors.” Here’s the big problem though, share price has dropped from $263 to $78.90. Every now and then it is a good idea for Wall Street analysts to open their eyes before issuing a forecast.

Valeant’s biggest investor is Bill Ackman of Pershing Square; he doubled down when the bad news on Valeant first hit; after Citron Research, a short-selling firm led by Andrew Left, issued a report two weeks ago asking if the company was running an Enron-like fraud. The stock had already been under pressure after the company was scrutinized for raising the prices for two acquired drugs. The Citron report, though, focused on Valeant’s relationship with Philidor, a specialty pharmacy. Citron has accused Valeant of using Philidor to book “phantom sales.” Valeant is the largest holding in Pershing Sqaure, and that hedge fund is now down about 19% for the year.

And the hits keep coming. A U.S. judge said Valeant Pharmaceuticals and hedge fund manager William Ackman must face a lawsuit accusing them of insider trading in Allergan before making an unsuccessful takeover bid for the maker of Botox. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of investors who sold Allergan shares in the two months before the defendants on April 22, 2014 announced an unsolicited $51 billion bid for Allergan. Pershing had by then quietly amassed a 9.7 percent stake in Allergan, which soared in value after the bid was announced. Investors said Pershing bought those shares knowing that Valeant was preparing a bid that could, and later did, become hostile.

Who knows? Maybe Valeant is an extraordinary bargain at current prices, but I’m guessing it will take years therapy before anybody is able to laugh at this.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has denied an appeal by railroads challenging new “crude-by-rail” regulations on trains hauling hazardous flammable materials. The rules issued in May include the phasing in of tougher tank car standards over several years and require new expensive braking systems on trains hauling more than 70 cars of crude oil by 2021.

General Electric’s stock did something yesterday that it hasn’t done in seven years: it closed above $30/share. In the years since June 10, 2008, GE’s stock has struggled despite CEO Jeff Immelt’s efforts to reassure investors that the company was changing. The mood seems to have shifted over the past year as the company offloaded its finance business and completed its biggest acquisition of all-time with the purchase of Alstom’s energy assets.

On Nov. 11, 1915, exactly three years before the end of World War I, IBM listed for the first time on the New York Stock Exchange — its name then Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co. IBM isn’t making a big deal of Wednesday’s 100th anniversary, which comes at an inauspicious time. Its stock has been the second biggest drag on the Dow Jones Industrial Average this year. For really, really long-term investors, consider this: If you had bought one share of IBM when it first listed on the NYSE at $47, you would now own 11,879 shares with a value of $1.6 million, according to the company. That’s a 3.4 million percent return.

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