Morning in Arizona

Morning in Arizona
Rainbows over Canyonlands - Dave Stoker

The Headline Animator

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Hat Trick

Financial Review

Hat Trick

DOW + 118 = 20,172
SPX + 13 = 2307
NAS + 32 = 5715
RUT + 19 = 1378
10 Y + .05 = 2.40%
OIL + .71 = 53.05
GOLD – 12.40 = 1229.60

We have new record high closes for the Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq. It’s a hat trick.

The chief executives of several airlines, as well as executives from air cargo companies, were invited to a breakfast meeting at the White House this morning. Trump called the air-traffic control system “outdated” and he told the execs: “We have an obsolete plane system, we have obsolete trains, we have obsolete airports, we have bad roads. And we’re going to change all that.”

Trump also said: “We’re going to be announcing something I would say over the two or three weeks that will be phenomenal in terms of tax and developing our aviation infrastructure.” He gave no indication of what the announcement might entail. Presumably the “phenomenal” tax and infrastructure plan does not apply solely to the airline industry, and Wall Street lapped it up. He went on to say: “Lowering the overall tax burden on American business is big league.”

The rally had stagnated in recent days as investors sought details about Trump’s policy agenda. Financials, which have soared since the election, were the best-performing group, up 1.4 percent after three sessions of declines, while energy shares gained 0.9 percent. Those sectors stand to benefit should lower taxes spur economic activity as interest rates and the demand for energy would presumably rise.

After 18 months of courtship and court cases, two massive deals that would have reshaped the U.S. health insurance industry have both been declared dead. Anthem’s $48 billion deal to buy Cigna was blocked by a federal judge late Wednesday, weeks after another judge halted Aetna’s bid for Humana. Reasons given: The mergers would have led to less competition and higher prices for Americans.

Applications for unemployment benefits in the U.S. unexpectedly declined last week to an almost three-month low. Jobless claims fell by 12,000 to 234,000 in the week ended Feb. 4. The latest results extend a trend of historically low claims, with applications staying below 300,000 in the longest streak since 1970. A shortage of skilled workers is prompting companies to hold on to existing employees while continuing to add more workers to help fulfill demand.

The Senate has confirmed Jeff Sessions as attorney general largely along party lines. The 52-47 vote capped weeks of divisive battles over Sessions, an early supporter of President Trump. Next up is Representative Tom Price, Trump’s pick for health secretary and a staunch advocate of repealing Obamacare. A vote come could come later tonight.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Canadian counterpart for the first time on Wednesday for talks that touched on NAFTA, the trade agreement President Trump has pledged to renegotiate. The top US diplomat also met with Mexico’s foreign minister to discuss collaboration on law enforcement, migration and security, and agreed to visit the country in the coming weeks.

A US court of appeals is reviewing arguments on whether to reinstate the Trump administration’s temporary ban on immigration, with the outcome likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Trump’s first executive order, signed January 25, entitled: “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” resurrects some of the most controversial immigration enforcement programs of recent years, seeks to deputize state and local law enforcement as immigration officials across the country, and threatens major cuts to federal funding for cities that fail to fall in line with the administration’s vision.

Trump has called for the construction of new immigrant detention facilities along the U.S. border with Mexico – including through private contracts – as quickly as possible, and there have been requests for additional asylum officers at 2 for-profit Detention Centers in Arizona.

A Dallas federal judge has upheld the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule, dealing a setback to the financial industry’s attempts to kill the measure. But the legal move may not mean much for the regulation’s fate. Last Friday, President Trump issued a memorandum to study the rule’s impact and rescind or revise it if it isn’t consistent with his administration’s regulatory principles. A status report will be published on March 10.

Boeing won orders for 39 wide-body aircraft from Singapore Airlines; a deal worth about $14 billion, as Southeast Asia’s biggest long-distance carrier upgrades its fleet over the next decade with more fuel-efficient models to cut costs.  The airline agreed to buy 20 777-9s, which are set to debut at the decade’s end, and 19 787-10s, the longest Dreamliner model.

There’s a good chance you can’t get there from here. More than 2,700 flights were canceled and all public schools in New York City, Boston and Philadelphia will be closed today as the region braced for a winter storm that could dump a foot of snow or more.

President Trump has written a letter to China’s President Xi Jinping in his first direct communication with the leader of the world’s second-biggest economy since he took office. With currency wars threatening to raise their head again, China has managed to get the yuan exactly where it wants it.

The nation’s authorities have let the currency rise against the dollar, making it harder for the U.S. administration to accuse it of undervaluing the exchange rate, while at the same letting the yuan weaken against a trade-weighted basket of currencies.

Greece’s two-year bond yield climbed above 10 percent as negotiations to release further IMF funds remained deadlocked. The International Monetary Fund weighed in this week, publishing a long-awaited analysis of the challenges the Greek economy still faces. The report has been the focal point of heated disagreement between the fund and Europe in terms of what Greece needs to do to get back on track.

The fund has argued that, in addition to needed reforms, European governments must provide debt relief to Greece for the country’s economy to recover fully. Meanwhile, Astellon Capital, a hedge fund based in London, published analysis saying that some form of restructuring is essential for Italy, given the inability of the country’s economy to grow.

The Astellon report also notes that the E.C.B. and sickly Italian banks have been the main buyers of Italian government bonds over the past three years. Also, Mediobanca, the Italian investment bank published a report which highlights just how little Italy has benefited from being in the euro: Growth has been literally zero, and the economy’s competitiveness as an exporter has deteriorated.

Twitter reported fourth-quarter revenue was $717 million, missing the $740 million average analyst estimate. Sales growth of 1 percent slowed dramatically in the period from the 48 percent gain a year earlier. Twitter added 2 million new users, bringing the total number of people who log in monthly to 319 million. Twitter has had trouble persuading advertisers to spend more money on its social-media platform as fewer people join.

Coca-Cola offered up a flat earnings report. Excluding items, the company earned 37 cents per share, in line with estimates. Net operating revenue fell about 6 percent to $9.41 billion, the seventh straight drop, but slightly ahead of estimates. The company forecast 2017 adjusted earnings to fall 1-4 percent from 2016. Coca-Cola has been offloading much of its bottling business to cope with falling demand for carbonated beverages in North America. Coke said it was on track to complete re-franchising of its US bottling operations by the end of this year.

Whole Foods is shrinking its store count for the first time since the recession. After reporting disappointing earnings, the upscale grocer says it will close 9 stores; including one in Prescott.

With about 70 percent of the S&P 500 having reported results, fourth-quarter earnings are on track to have climbed 8.5 percent, which would be the best performance since the third quarter of 2014, according to Thomson Reuters.

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