Morning in Arizona

Morning in Arizona
Rainbows over Canyonlands - Dave Stoker

The Headline Animator

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Oh Canada

Financial Review

Oh Canada

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 13:15 — 7.6MB)

DOW + 232 = 20,996
SPX + 14 = 2388
NAS + 41 = 6,025
RUT + 13 = 1411
10 Y + .05 = 2.33%
OIL + .13 = 49.36
GOLD – 12.00 = 1265.00

This has been a very strong start to the week. The Dow Industrial Average has added about 460 points in the past two sessions and traded above 21,000. The S&P 500 has gained about 40 points. Both the Dow and the S&P are now back above their 50-day moving averages.

The Nasdaq Composite broke through 6,000 for a record high. To put this in perspective, the Nasdaq broke above the 5,000 milestone on March 9, 2000 – 17 years ago. Simple math tells you that the Nasdaq has returned just over 1% per year, on average, for the past 17 years. Of course, there was nothing average about the past 17 years.

The week started with somewhat positive news about the French elections, which translated to a risk-on trade for global markets; combined with easing geopolitical tensions; plus, the hope for some sort of tax cut measure to be announced tomorrow.

The threat of a US government shutdown this weekend appeared to recede after President Trump backed away from a demand that Congress include funding for his planned border wall with Mexico in a spending bill. However, even if the fight over wall funding is over, Republicans and Democrats still have some difficult issues to resolve as they face a Friday night deadline.

The big driver in the 2-day rally has been earnings, coming in much stronger than estimates. With half of the Dow 30 Industrial companies reporting earnings, with 11 beating earnings expectations, according to FactSet. That 73% beat rate is above the 5-year average of 68% for S&P 500 companies.

I know that is a little of an apples-to-oranges comparison, but still, it has been a good earnings reporting season so far.  The shares of the Dow companies that have revealed results have gained a combined total of $21.80 in price since the reports were released through Tuesday afternoon, with 10 winners rising a combined $36.33 and five losers falling $14.46.

The combined price gains are adding about 149 points to the Dow, which is a price-weighted index. That would represent about 36% of the Dow’s 417-point gain since earnings season started. The stocks of the five Dow companies that reported results today were adding about 125 points to the Dow’s price. Caterpillar and McDonald’s combined to add 100 points to the Dow today.

McDonald’s reported first-quarter earnings and sales that topped analysts’ most bullish estimates amid declining visits to restaurants industry-wide. McDonald’s cut prices and offered a smaller Big mac and a bigger Big Mac, plus they are doing well with all-day breakfast – that helped lift sales in the US by 1.7%. Global sales at stores open for at least one year — so-called comparable store sales — rose by 4%. Earnings and revenue beat estimates.

Caterpillar announced higher-than-expected earnings and revenue. In a press release, noted strong cost cutting measures, while downplaying guidance, writing: “While Caterpillar had strong first-quarter performance and is seeing signs of recovery in several of the industries it serves, geopolitical and market uncertainty along with volatility in commodity prices continue to present risks for the rest of the year.”

Coca-Cola reported a smaller-than-expected quarterly profit due to higher costs related to refranchising its North America bottling operations. Global soda sales fell 1 percent in the first quarter. Coke missed earnings estimates but beat revenue estimates.

AT&T’s quarterly revenue missed estimates on lower equipment sales, as customers held onto their phones longer and did not buy new replacement phones. AT&T lost 61,000 wireless subscribers who pay a monthly bill. Earnings also missed estimates. AT&T, which is in the process of acquiring Time Warner, also said it would no longer give a full-year revenue forecast due to the unpredictability of wireless handset sales.

3M, which makes Scotch tape and Post-it notes, raised its 2017 profit forecast and reported better-than-expected quarterly results, helped by growth across its major businesses. 3M beat earnings and revenue estimates.

Chipotle Mexican Grill reports same store sales rose almost 18 percent in the first quarter.  Sales by that measure had previously declined for five straight quarters following an E. coli outbreak and other food-poisoning incidents that began in 2015. Chipotle is still grappling with higher labor costs and a tight market for restaurant employees.

The chain raised menu prices at about 440 of its 2,200 locations earlier this month to cope with escalating expenses. Still, they managed to beat revenue and earnings estimates. Chipotle opened 57 new restaurants during the quarter, and it reiterated plans to add as many as 210 this year.

Panera Bread plans to hire 10,000 new employees by the end of the year as they expand their delivery services. Some 75 percent of the new hires will be delivery drivers, while the remaining 25 percent will be in-cafe jobs. Panera has already rolled out delivery to 15 percent of its system, including 20 percent of its company-owned locations.

By the end of 2017, it hopes to expand delivery to 35 percent to 40 percent of system-wide locations. The delivery option is expected to add about $250,000 in revenue per restaurant. Panera is in the process of being acquired by privately held JAB Holding in a deal valued at about $7.5 billion.

Earnings season kicked off with the big banks and today Wells Fargo and Citigroup held their annual shareholders’ meetings. It did not go well. Wells’ meeting ran nearly three hours, was repeatedly interrupted by angry shareholders seeking answers about how and why thousands of bank employees could open 2.1 million fake accounts in customers’ names without their permission.

Several shareholders were physically escorted out of the meeting. Proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) argued the Wells Fargo directors failed in their oversight duties. All directors were re-elected but several, including Chairman Stephen Sanger, barely had a majority of votes. Hardly a show of confidence, and an indicator that we could see a shakeup in the board soon.

Citigroup is one of four lead banks in a group of 17 which have provided project financing for the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline crosses land of the Standing Rock Sioux whose members are concerned about possible ground water contamination if the pipeline breaks.

Citigroup’s shareholder meeting was disrupted by protesters, prompting a rare apology from Chairman Mike O’Neill, who said, “We wish we could have a do-over on this.” CEO Mike Corbat said Citigroup had not given enough early consideration to the concerns of the indigenous people.

The Trump administration announced a 20% tariff on lumber imported from Canada, to be applied retroactively. The trade agreement that governed imports of Canadian lumber expired at the end of 2016, and prices have been on the rise since then. The National Association of Home Builders said higher input costs had already added almost $3,600 to the price of a new home, and the tariff will add $1236 to the price of the average single family home.

The NAHB also says the proposed tariff could cost as many as 8,241 jobs and over $350 million in taxes and other revenues for U.S. governments in 2017 alone. The US lumber industry alleges Canadian wood is heavily subsidized and imports are harming U.S. mills and workers. Canada is the world’s largest softwood lumber exporter, and the U.S. is its biggest market.

Canadian lumber companies called the tariff unfair and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau vowed to fight back. International tribunals have considered the issue of whether Canada provides unfair subsidies to lumber exports and ruled that it does not. Log costs are lower in some parts of the US than in some regions of Canada.

The US does not produce enough lumber to meet domestic demand. Homebuilders such as Lennar, Pulte, and DRHorton all dropped today. May lumber futures dropped $10.00 at $385.10, go figure.

Meanwhile, on the southern border, Mexico and the US have been fighting for years over dolphin safe tuna. Mexico says its fisherman play by the rules. The US government disagrees. Today, the World Trade Organization ruled in Mexico’s favor, allowing it to impose trade sanctions worth $163 million a year against the US. The WTO says that’s how much money Mexico has lost from the US unfairly penalizing Mexican tuna.

A US judge has blocked President Trump’s executive order that sought to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities. The ruling said Trump’s order targeted broad categories of federal funding for sanctuary governments and that plaintiffs challenging the order were likely to succeed in proving it unconstitutional.

The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index fell to 120.3 this month from 124.9 in March, which was the highest reading since December 2000. The index in April was the second highest reading since 2000. Consumers’ assessment of labor market conditions was slightly less favorable than in March. That measure closely correlates to the unemployment rate in the Labor Department’s employment report.

House prices continued to show no signs of slowing, hitting their highest in nearly three years. The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city index rose 5.9% in the three-month period ending in February compared to the same period a year ago, an acceleration from its 5.7% yearly increase in January. This is the highest rate since July 2014. The 20-city index was up 0.4% for the month, or a 0.7% gain when seasonally adjusted. Phoenix saw a 0.4% gain in the last month, and 5.3% over the past year.

The Commerce Department said new home sales jumped 5.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 621,00 units last month, the highest level since July 2016. New home sales were up 15.6 percent compared to March 2016. They have now increased for three straight months.

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