Morning in Arizona

Morning in Arizona
Rainbows over Canyonlands - Dave Stoker

The Headline Animator

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

The Streak Ends

Financial Review

The Streak Ends

DOW – 25 = 20,812
SPX – 6 = 2362
NAS – 36 = 5825
RUT – 21 = 1386
10 Y – .01 – 2.36%
OIL – .13 = 53.92
GOLD – 4.30 = 1248.80

After 12 straight record high closes, the Dow Industrials finally posted a losing session. No milk and cookies today. It was the best run of record highs since 1987.

After topping out at 103.82 on January 3, the US dollar has weakened against a basket of its peers, pulling back into the 100 area. Dollar weakness is good news for the multinationals that dominate the S&P 500. Stocks rallied right after the election, bonds sold off for roughly the same reasons.

Yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to a high of 2.64% in the middle of December (yields move opposite to prices) – reflecting expectations for faster growth, but in the past month buyers returned to bonds, pushing yields down as low as 2.32% and today finishing at 2.36%.

The rally in bonds might be explained by recent headlines that Trump’s proposed stimulus plans will take longer to implement than previously expected and that the stimulus will be less expansionary than first thought. Today, the market paused ahead of President Trump’s address before Congress; and the markets will be looking for specifics with specific timelines.

President Trump speaks to a joint session of Congress tonight, where investors hope for more details on the administration’s plans for tax reform, deregulation and infrastructure spending. The future of the Affordable Care Act could also be a subject, as well as updates on the Border Tax Adjustment.

Trump said he believes the extra $54 billion dollars he has proposed spending on the US military will be offset by a stronger economy as well as cuts in discretionary spending. Still to be answered – what will be cut, and how will the military spend an extra $54 billion, and how will it be accounted for.

Today, Trump signed an executive order that asks new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to begin the long process of repealing the Clean Water Rule (also known as the “Waters of the US rule”) and replacing it with… something else. Here’s the catch: Rolling back this rule won’t be easy to do.

By law, Pruitt must go through the years-long federal rulemaking process and replace the Obama-era regulation with his own version – and then defend it in court as legally superior. And, as Pruitt’s about to find out, figuring out which bodies of water deserve protection is a maddeningly complex task that could take years and years.

Gross domestic product increased at a 1.9 percent annual rate, per the Commerce Department’s second estimate for the fourth quarter, confirming the estimate published last month. Output increased at a 3.5 percent rate in the third quarter. The economy grew 1.6 percent for all of 2016, its worst performance since 2011, after expanding 2.6 percent in 2015.

Consumer spending was revised from 2.5 percent to 3.0 percent. Economic data early in the first quarter has been mixed, with retail sales rising in January but home-building and business spending on capital goods easing.

The US trade deficit for goods widened in January, as Americans snapped up consumer goods made abroad. The advance look at the trade deficit widened 7.6% to $69 billion. Imports widened by $4.4 billion while exports fell by $400 million. Imports of consumer goods jumped 4.8% in January and climbed 7.8% over 12 months.

The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index rose 5.6% in the three-month period ending in December compared to a year ago, up from a 5.2% annual gain in November. The broader national index rose 5.8% for the year in the December period, the strongest gain in 30 months.

In December, the hottest markets were again in the West. Seattle prices rose 10.8% compared to a year ago. In Phoenix, home prices rose 0.2% in December, and 4.9% compared to a year ago.

The Conference Board’s survey of consumer confidence rose to 114.8 in February from 111.6 in January. That’s the highest level since July 2001. Only 20% of survey respondents said jobs are “hard to get,” that is an 8-year low. In February, the present situation index rose to 133.4 from 130.0. The index measures how Americans feel now. The expectations index that looks six months ahead increased to 102.4 from 99.3 last month.

The Senate has confirmed billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as Commerce secretary, clearing another one of Trump’s economic team members. Ross has agreed to divest from much of his business empire.

Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan says the financial market is pricing in the probability of an interest-rate hike by the Federal Reserve in either March, May or June and that is “likely in the neighborhood of where we are heading.” Kaplan said, “I don’t think the exact timing is the most important thing. I think the path of rates is.”

Kaplan, who is a rate-policy voter this year, said the economy is making good progress toward the Fed’s goals of full employment and a stable 2% rate of inflation. Meanwhile, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker, another rate-policy voter said today, “I see three hikes as appropriate for 2017, assuming things stay on track.”

Well, if the Fed does raise rates in 2 weeks, we have been warned. Those comments helped push the 2-year yield to its highest since December. Interest rate futures implied traders saw a nearly 57 percent chance the Fed will raise rates at its next meeting on March 14-15, up from roughly 31 percent late on Monday, per Reuters data.

Morgan Stanley gave some wealth management clients incorrect tax information that caused some to underpay and others to overpay. The bank is setting aside $70 million to cover the costs and is in discussions with the IRS over the errors that occurred in tax years 2011 through 2016.

South Korean authorities have formally charged the heir of Samsung – Jay Y. Lee – with bribery and embezzlement in the corruption scandal that has rocked the country’s political establishment. Samsung Electronics President Park Sang-Jin has also resigned, as well as Vice Chair Choi Gee-Sung.

YouTube viewers worldwide are now watching more than 1 billion hours of videos a day, threatening to eclipse US television viewership, which is estimated at 1.25 billion hours. YouTube surpassed the figure, which represents a 10-fold increase since 2012, late last year. By comparison, Facebook and Netflix, as of January 2016, counted 100 million and 116 million hours of daily video views, respectively.

It goes to show… Comcast has announced a deal that will allow customers with the latest gear to search for and watch YouTube videos through their cable boxes. The deal follows a similar tie-up with Netflix unveiled last July. YouTube apps are available through many smart TVs and internet-connected boxes like Roku, but those don’t allow for an integrated search across traditional TV networks and Netflix.

YouTube is getting ready to take on traditional cable companies, today unveiling Unplugged, a live TV service streamed over the internet. Unplugged will be similar to Dish’s Sling TV and AT&T’s DirecTV Now, allowing you to subscribe to a so-called “skinny bundle” of popular pay TV channels at a cost of around $30 to $40 per month.

A large swath of the internet went down today when Amazon’s cloud-based Simple Storage Service, or S3, went offline. Amazon’s service provides website and image hosting and storage capabilities for a variety of companies including Imgur, Dropbox, Slack, Snapchat’s Bitmoji, parts of Amazon itself and a slew of others.

UBS published a research report on Apple, writing: “the company may have over 1,000 engineers working on a project in Israel that could be related to AR [augmented reality]. Augmented reality is an area where Apple could leapfrog competition in providing a superior user experience. This could result in sustained iPhone retention rates and more switchers.”

However, if you really want the skinny on Apple, they were holding their annual shareholder meeting today, and Apple CEO Tim Cook predicts tons of revenue from “future stuff I can’t talk about.”

Target forecast a drop in full-year sales at established stores and reported a steeper-than-expected fall in holiday-quarter sales due to “unexpected softness” at its stores. Target’s net sales have now declined for six quarters in a row as shoppers increasingly gravitate to online retailers. Target said it expects sales at stores open for at least a year to decline in the low-single digit percentage range, and they cut earnings guidance 16% to 24%.  Target shares down about 13% at a 2-year low.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals  posted better-than-expected earnings and revenue for the fourth quarter as it cut costs and saw strength in its Bausch & Lomb eye care business. However, revenue fell 13% from a year ago. The company has been struggling to regain investor confidence after it came under investigation over its accounting and drug pricing practices last year.

Priceline Group hit a 52-week high after reporting a beat on both its top and bottom lines for the fourth quarter. Revenue was up 17% thanks to a jump in hotel reservations.

Saudi Aramco will buy a 50% equity stake in Malaysian firm Petronas’ major refining and petrochemical project for $7 billion. The deal will boost Aramco’s downstream business ahead of a planned initial public offering next year.

OneWeb Ltd, a US satellite startup backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group, and debt-laden satellite operator Intelsat SA agreed to merge in a share-for-share deal.  SoftBank will buy voting and non-voting shares in the combined company for $1.7 billion in cash.

Starbucks will locate one of its ultra-luxurious coffee “roasteries” in Milan, Italy, marking the chain’s first entry into the Italian coffee market where founder and CEO Howard Schultz originally drew inspiration for the company. Starbucks plans to open 20 to 30 Roastery locations worldwide, where customers are treated to personalized small-batch brews of Starbucks Reserve coffee.

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