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Business News Archives for 2015-10




Federal Reserve officials pivoted toward a December rate hike in a statement released in Washington yesterday, which referred to the bank's "next meeting" as it discussed the timing of lift-off. Market-based expectations for a rate rise in 2015 now stand at 46 percent this morning, up from 34 percent before the release. Emerging market stocks and currencies have sold off as the dollar strengthened in the aftermath of the statement. (Bloomberg)
 
Just out this morning: US economic expansion slowed sharply last quarter, though the resilience of consumer spending suggests the dip may prove fleeting.  The economy grew at a 1.5 per cent annualized pace in the three months to September, down from 3.9 per cent in the second quarter.  Expansion was depressed as companies expanded stockpiles at a slower pace, and a stronger dollar took the shine off exports.  Despite those headwinds, consumer spending proved resilient. Household spending grew 3.2 per cent in the quarter, which was just shy of the 3.3 per cent forecast. The economy's weaker showing will have been expected by the Fed, and is unlikely to prompt alarm.  (FT)
 
Royal Dutch Shell swung to a third-quarter loss after taking a $7.9B write-down on big ticket projects including an exploration venture in the Alaskan Arctic and a major oil sands endeavor in Canada. The company, however, is still moving ahead with its $70B acquisition of BG Group.  (SA)

Ready for another mega healthcare deal?  Pfizer is in early-stage takeover talks with Allergan (for those unfamiliar, the maker of Botox).  Allergan shares have surged 17% higher in pre-market trading in New York on news of the potential deal.  
 



It’s time for our monthly episode of Voyeurism, with all eyes on the fed.  The Fed is largely expected to keep interest rates unchanged today, but will there be anything for investors to digest in terms of the timing of an upcoming hike? Chairwoman Janet Yellen isn't scheduled to hold a press conference following the meeting, and officials won't be releasing updated economic projections, but the central bank's new policy statement could offer some clues. What to watch: References to global economic headwinds, slower domestic growth, inflation targets, and more hawkish dissent. (SA)
 
Northrop Grumman climbed almost 6% in after-hours trading yesterday after it emerged as the winner for the Pentagon's Long Range Strike Bomber program. The company beat out Boeing and Lockheed Martin for the $55bn contract. The aircraft are intended to cost a maximum $550m each in 2010 dollars. (WSJ)
 
Apple sold 48m iPhones in the three months to September, broadly in line with analysts' forecasts, but still beating Wall Street forecasts with earnings of $1.96 per share.  iPhone unit sales grew by 22 per cent year-on-year, with smartphone revenues 36 per cent higher, and sales in China up 99%.  The quarter includes just two days of sales of the latest iPhone 6S. (FT)

Finally, in merger news: Walgreens Boots Alliance has agreed to buy Rite Aid for $17.2bn in deal that unseats CVC Health as the largest pharmacy chain in the US.  It’s the latest expansion engineered by Walgreens billionaire chief executive Stefano Pessina, Walgreens will pay $9 for each Rite Aid share. Rite Aid's shares had soared 43 per cent to close at $8.78 after the merger talks were reported yesterday.  (FT)
 



It's not the meeting we've all been waiting for, but the Fed's policy-making committee convenes in Washington today and tomorrow, where it's expected to keep benchmark interest rates near zero. The real question is whether the Fed will raise rates at its next gathering in December. Officials may provide some hints to that answer in tomorrow's post-meeting statement by signaling a change in stance to recent soft U.S. economic data and events in the global markets.

2 data reports this morning should also give some sense of the American economy's momentum for the fall, especially given headwinds from Asia and recent wobbles on Wall Street. First will be government data on durable goods orders for September, followed by a report on October's consumer confidence from the Conference Board. Traders are also eyeing upcoming earnings reports from several heavy hitters, including Ford, Alibaba, Apple, and Twitter

The White House and congressional leaders have reached a tentative deal on a two-year budget plan that would suspend the debt limit through mid-March 2017 and boost spending by $80B through September 2017. Those increases would be offset by cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits, and savings and revenue from other programs. The agreement could be voted on by the House as soon as tomorrow.



Congress will try to avert a manufactured economic crisis this week and raise the debt ceiling. The government is set to run out of money a week from Tuesday. (Roll Call)
 
Toyota was the world's best-selling automaker during the first nine months of the year, selling almost 7.5 million cars and trucks. Volkswagen, which had been No. 1 over the first half of the year, was second. (CNBC)
 
In the battle to prevent identity theft Diebold and Citigroup are testing a new eye-scanning ATM, which would allow withdrawals with an eye scan or a smartphone code. (Wall Street Journal)
 
It is merger Monday and Duke Energy, the largest U.S. power company by generation capacity, is buying natural gas distributor Piedmont Natural Gas for $4.9 billion in cash. (Reuters)
 
Xerox reported quarterly profits below estimates and is undertaking a "comprehensive review of structural options". The company reported a net loss of $34 million, compared with a profit of $266 million last year. Revenue fell 9.6% to $4.33 billion. (Reuters)
 
Oil is flat at $44.65 a barrel. Gasoline prices fell another 10.5 cents last week. Consumers are saving  nearly a dollar a gallon at the pump compared with a year ago. (Lundberg survey)



AT&T's profits fell 4.3% to $3 billion as income taxes rose, but sales climbed 19% to $39.1 billion on the strength of wireless.  AT&T doubled its entertainment and Internet services -- up 96% to $10.9 billion -- thanks to its July acquisition of DirecTV. (USA Today)
 
Procter & Gamble sales were hurt by weak demand across all product categories and a strong dollar. P&G, which gets nearly two-thirds of its revenue from markets outside North America, was also hurt by a nearly 13% rise in the dollar. Profits rose 30% to $2.60 billion. Sales fell 12% $16.5 billion. Excluding the impact of currency sales fell 1%.
 
Pilots at UPS are set to announce the results of a strike vote. The union and UPS have been at odds since 2011 over wages and retirement benefits, with federal mediator stepping in last year. (CNBC)
Just 63 days till Christmas and Amazon is hiring 25% more seasonal workers this holiday season. Amazon plans to hire 100,000 persons at its more than 50 warehouses and 20 package sorting centers in the U.S. The company has hired about 25,000 full-time workers since August. (WSJ)
 



A boat load of earnings this morning.
 
3M reported third-quarter profits of $1.3 billion. The maker of Post-it notes, industrial coatings and ceramics had sales of $7.7 billion.  3M shares have decreased roughly 9% since the beginning of the year. (AP)
 
Caterpillar had profits of $368 million in the third quarter, down from $1 billion last year. Sales for the quarter were $11 billion, down from $13.5 billion the previous year. Caterpillar incurred $101 million in restructuring costs. The cost is expected to lower operating costs by $1.5 billion annually. Caterpillar stock is down over 6% this year. (Market Watch)
 
Dow Chemical, the biggest U.S. chemical maker by sales posted profits of 82 cents per share, better than expected, supported by higher margins in the company’s plastics business and lower raw material costs. Sales were $12 billion, down 16% year over year, hurt by unfavorable currency impacts. Dow sees growth across China, the U.S. and Europe.  (Zacks)
 
McDonald's sales moved up at U.S. locations during the third quarter, snapping a run of about two years of quarterly declines. Sales rose 4% on a global basis and 0.9% in the U.S. For the quarter, McDonald's had profits of $1.3 billion. Sales were $6.6 billion. (AP)
 



Yum Brands announced yesterday the company is cutting its China unit loose after a string of difficulties that management has been unable to fix, highlighting the shifting fortunes for global companies in the world’s most populous market.  By the end of next year, Yum China will become a separate, publicly traded franchisee of Yum Brands (WSJ)
 
Ferrari raced to a near $10bn valuation as it completed a long awaited IPO.  The company sold 17.2m shares at $52 apiece, drawing strong investor demand.  The italian luxury carmaker is being spun off from Fiat Chrysler in a bid to reduce debts at the parent company.  Ferrari is planning to planning to lift annual production to more than 10,000 vehicles.  (FT)
 
Yahoo has signed a search advertising deal with Google, providing a potential boost to Marissa Mayer's efforts to turn around the company. The deal with Google builds on an existing search partnership with Microsoft under which the company gets a percentage of revenue from ads displayed on its sites. The move follows disappointing Q3 results from Yahoo that missed expectations and unveiled cost cuts, content write-offs, and more soft guidance. (FT)
 
In earnings news before the bell this mornings, Boeing beat estimates, and raised guidance – leading shares higher in pre-market trading.  Coke also beat analyst estimates, but missed on the top line, shares are down slightly before the open.  GM smashed analyst estimates – on record margins, and even including $1.5bn in charges related to ignition switch issues. (SA)    
 



Obama administration officials yesterday rejected calls to release Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from government control, signaling that it could be up to the next president or Congress to resolve the mortgage giants’ fate.  For the past year, a coalition of investment firms and affordable-housing advocates has pressed the administration to privatize Fannie and Freddie, which have been under government conservatorship since being rescued during the financial crisis in 2008. (WSJ)

Capital outflows from China topped $500bn in the first 8 months of the year, according to new calculations by the US Treasury that highlight the shifting fortunes in the global economy.  The outflows, which peaked in August, have also contributed to a shift in Washington's valuation of the Chinese yuan - Treasury officials are cautiously welcoming the People's Bank of China's heavy spending to prop up the currency.  (FT)
The Federal Reserve has now held interest rates steady at zero for 81 months, even longer than the depression era.  Bond market investors are betting that this unwelcome record will be extended beyond next March.  The divergence between the Fed's own forecasts and interest rate futures continues to widen, suggesting either further embarrassment to the Fed, or an unpleasant and potentially destabilizing shock to markets later this year.  (FT)

Finally, we’re in the thick of earnings season: IBM and Morgan Stanley disappointed yesterday, but there’s some tech heavyweights to come: On Wednesday, eBay will announce results for the first time since it spun-off PayPal, and Thursday will see Microsoft, Amazon, and the company formerly known as Google (now under the Alphabet umbrella) all report.  
 



The gap between available jobs and hiring narrowed in August. Job openings dropped to 5.37 million in August after reaching a record in July.  Job openings declined in state and local government and non-durable goods manufacturing. Over the last 12 months, professional and business services, and health care and social assistance have seen the largest gains. (Market Watch)
 
Consumer confidence rebounded in October,
jumping to 92.1 from a September reading of 87.2.
The index is more than 5 points above its October 2014 reading. (Wall Street Journal)
 
China said its economy expanded at the slowest pace since the financial crisis, up 6.9% in the third quarter, better than the expected 6.8% but down from 7% in the previous period. (CNBC)
 
A high-profile U.S. investigation of bribery allegations against the Mexican operations of Wal-Mart has found little in the way of major offenses, and could be resolved with a fine and no criminal charges. (WSJ)
 
Presale of tickets to Disney's upcoming "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" open tonight, after the debut of the full trailer during halftime of "Monday Night Football". (NY Times)
 



The retail investors are coming back with this recent rebound.   Last week they poured $2.5 billion into US stock mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, after $8 billion in outflows the prior week. (Lipper)

Consumer prices recorded their biggest drop in eight months in September as the cost of gasoline fell. The Consumer Price Index fell 0.2% last month after slipping 0.1% in August.

China’s imports extended the longest losing streak in six years. Imports plunged 17.7%  in September from a year earlier. Shipments to the U.S. rose 6.7% in September. Exports to the U.S. as a percentage of overall shipments jumped to their highest level since August 2010.

Mattel profits fell by one-third as sales of Barbie and other toys mainly marketed to girls declined and the strong U.S. dollar continued to pressure its revenue. Mattel said Barbie sales slumped outside the U.S., by 14% worldwide, while sales of its "Other Girls" brands, which include Monster High and Disney Classics, fell 29%. Shares of Mattel have fallen 27% 2015. (AP)

Another casualty of low oil prices. Occidental Petroleum is selling its assets in North Dakota's Bakken for $500 million. That is far less than the roughly $3 billion it had expected to get last year. (Reuters)

Join us Saturday at 10 for Financial Focus Radio when we will tell you the risky places to be in this market.
 



Producer prices in September  fell 0.5% its biggest decline in eight months as the cost of energy products fell for a third straight month. It was the eighth straight 12-month decrease in the index. Last month, wholesale energy prices dropped 5.9% and wholesale food prices fell 0.8%. (Reuters)
 
U.S. businesses kept their inventories unchanged and sales slid 0.6% in August and 0.1% in September. Retail sales were dampened by plummeting gasoline prices and a strong dollar that made imported goods cheaper. (AP)

Shares of Wal-Mart plunged Wednesday having its worst day in 15 years after the company said its full-year sales would be flat. Wal-Mart said the stronger U.S. dollar contributed to its expectation, adding it anticipates sales will rise 3% excluding currency exchange rates. Wal-Mart pinned the rise in expenses mostly on recent wage hikes, which it said will increase costs by $1.2 billion this year. The retailer expects earnings per share to decline by 6% to 12% driven by pay increases. (CNBC)
 
Albertsons delayed its initial public offering last night. Sources say the grocery chain was making plans to go public as soon as tomorrow, but other sources say it might be much longer. (Reuters)
 



Johnson & Johnson, maker of Listerin, Band-Aid and Tylenol, beat expectations reporting profits of $3.36 billion.  Sales were $17.1 billion, a 7.4% decrease from the year-earlier. International sales decreased 13.7% and it had a negative currency impact of 15.8%. The company also announced a repurchase of up to $10 billion of Johnson & Johnson's common stock. (Market Watch)
 
U.S. mortgage rates fell sharply last week. The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dropped to 3.76% from 3.85% a week earlier. The rate on 15-year fixed-rate mortgages declined to 2.99% from 3.07%. Rates have stayed below 4% for 11 straight weeks. A year ago, the average 30-year mortgage rate was 4.19%, while the rate for 15-year loans was 3.36%. (USA Today)
 
Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller have agreed in principle to a deal, in which AB InBev would buy its rival brewer for a sweetened price tag of just over $104 billion. (CNBC)
 
PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are both said to be in talks to buy a stake in Greek yogurt maker Chobani. The potential deals could value Chobani as high as $3 billion. (Reuters)
 
 



The S&P 500 is coming off its best weekly gain of the year as investors begin a new week. The fate of the market will depend on corporate earnings in the coming weeks, as well as economic data. (CNBC)

The beer wars may not be over yet. AB InBev may raise its takeover offer for rival beer brewer SABMiller. Three offers have been rejected so far by SAB Miller. (Reuters)

Personal computer sales are doing even worse than expected. PC shipments plunged 10.8% in the third quarter, compared to the same period one year ago. The overall decline in PC usage and sales has persisted for several years, thanks to a shift to smartphones and tablets. With competing methods to go online, the urgency to upgrade personal computers has faded. (IDC)

Dell will purchase cloud computing company EMC in a deal worth $67billion, marking it the biggest tech transaction on record. (CNBC)

Ford plans to invest $1.8 billion over the next five years in China, to expand research and development in that country. It will include research on how to add greater smartphone connectivity, autonomous driving and other smart car features. (Wall Street Journal)
 



Stocks are searching for direction this morning, after powering higher for a fifth straight session yesterday The S&P 500 is on track for its best week of the year. (CNBC) Boosting the overall stock market is a rebound in oil, holding over $50 for the first time since late July. Crude prices were set for their biggest weekly rise since 2009. (Reuters)
 
Our phones are slowly becoming our wallet. Starbucks will soon accept Apple Pay, with KFC and Chili's on board sometime next year. Delta customers can now book and pay for flights using Apple Pay through the Delta app. (The Verge)
 
Medicare Part B premiums will rise 52% in 2016 for 7 million enrollees or 30% of beneficiaries because of a provision in cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security. (USA Today)
 
Earnings season officially left the gate last night as Alcoa reported a sharp drop in profits. The aluminum producer posted a profit of $44 million, as sales fell 11% to $5.57 billion, weakened by the stronger U.S. dollar and devalued Chinese  yuan. Oversupply, exacerbated by China’s economic slowdown, has battered aluminum prices, which have fallen about 14% since the beginning of the year. (Wall Street Journal)
 



Just 78 days till Christmas and retailers are painting a consistent picture of the holiday season. The National Retail Federation says it expects holiday sales to increase 3.7%. Predicted holiday sales in will reach $630.7 billion, rising at a rate significantly higher than the 10-year average of 2.5% percent. Last year sales rose 4.1%.
 
It is earnings season again and Domino’s is delivering to your door this morning. They reported profits of $37.8 million. The pizza chain posted revenue of $484.7 million in the quarter. Domino's Pizza shares have risen 15% since the beginning of the year. (AP)
 
Costco reported flat comparable store sales for September that beat estimates for a 0.8% decline. Excluding gasoline and currency impact, sales increased 8%. (CNBC)
 
The beer world is getting a little foamy. The worlds largest spirits maker, Diageo, may sell its beer division to brewer SABMiller, according to the New York Post. SABMiller could use such a deal to help it fend off a takeover attempt by rival brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev.
 
Dell, the world's third-largest maker of personal computers, is in talks to buy cloud computing company EMC.  The market is currently valuing EMC at about $50 billion as of Wednesday's close. (Reuters)
 



Matthias Müller, Volkswagen’s new chief executive, said the German carmaker should be able to begin recalling vehicles affected by the diesel emissions scandal in January and complete repairs by the end of 2016.  He said that 11m vehicles will require a software update, but others will need new hardware.  The technical fix varies according to the model, transmission and country-specific factors, meaning VW requires a range of different solutions, adding to the expense.  Shares in VW have fallen more than a third since the scandal broke. (FT)

Central banks around the world are selling U.S. government bonds at the fastest pace on record, the most dramatic shift in the $12.8 trillion Treasury market since the financial crisis.  Sales by China, Russia, Brazil and Taiwan are the latest sign of an emerging-markets slowdown that is threatening to spill over into the U.S. economy. Previously, all four countries were large purchasers of U.S. debt (WSJ).

Yum Brands (the parent company of Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut) has discovered that the road to recovery in China is tougher than expected.  Chinese same-store sales, a key industry metric, rose 2 per cent in the third quarter, but trailed behind estimates for 9.6 per cent growth. Comparable sales have declined in each of the four previous quarters.  Yum has struggled in China, its biggest market, following a food safety scare in July 2014.  China accounts for more than half the company’s revenues (FT).

Oil prices are on the rise again following a near 5% jump yesterday. The surge is being triggered by data from the American Petroleum Institute showing a 1.2M barrel decrease in crude stocks last week, and expectations of increasing demand from the EIA. Oil is up $.73 at $49.26 a barrel, and has rallied 27% from its August low.  
 



The U.S. Treasury sold a new government security with a three-month maturity and a yield of zero for the first time on record yesterday, reflecting the highest demand since June.  In essence, buyers gave a free short-term loan to the U.S. government in exchange for a highly liquid debt instrument for their portfolio.  The result reflects diminishing expectations in financial markets that the Federal Reserve would raise short-term rates before year-end after Friday’s disappointing jobs report. (wsj)


U.S. industries as diverse as aerospace, agriculture and apparel lauded a historic 12-nation Pacific trade deal struck Monday, while pharmaceutical makers, tobacco companies and others criticized the pact as falling short in key areas.  Completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the biggest trade deal in a generation, marks a victory for President Barack Obama, who said it would open new markets to American products and set high standards for protecting workers and the environment. (WSJ)


Shares in SABMiller have taken a downwards turn following a report that the London-listed brewer behind brands including Miller, Peroni, and Grolsch rejected an informal offer made last week by its bigger rival, Anheuser-Busch InBev.  The offer was apparently rejected as being too low. According to some shareholders, the offer price should eclipse $110bn, which would be the largest merger of the year.  (FT)
 



US Stocks turned sharp opening losses on Friday into big gains by the end of the day to finish last week higher after the September jobs report disappointed leading investors to believe the Fed won't raise interest rates until 2016.  This week investors are looking to earnings season kicking off after the market close with Alcoa and PepsiCo to drive market direction.

Yesterday Saudi Arabia made deep cuts to the price it charges for its oil.  Countries in the Middle East continue to pump more oil and slash the price they charge for that oil in an attempt to undercut the marginal US producers and ultimately put them out of business so that long-term the price of oil is higher.  In the short-term however oil prices will continue to move lower.

Apple is the most valuable brand in the world followed by Google in 2nd and Coca-Cola in 3rd.  Apple's brand value increased 43% from a year ago to $170 Billion, Google's climbed 12% to $120 Billion, and Coke's value declined 4%.  Today is the first day that Google starts trading under the name Alphabet.

It turns out that giving CEO's huge bonuses to boost shareholder return doesn't actually work according to a study at Cornell University.  Rewarding CEO's with large stock bonuses seems to have an adverse effect placing their stock returns in the bottom quartile of all publicly traded companies.

And it's now legal in Oregon, but making money on marijuana here may not be that easy.  Legal pot may not be as big a boon to Oregon as it has been in other states.  Medical pot has been legal here since 1998 but dispensaries here have had a hard time making money unlike other states.  The headwinds Oregon faces are infused products are banned, it's already cheap here, and Oregonians already grow their own.



The Department of Labor says the US economy added 142,000 jobs in September; only 118,000 of those were in the private sector.  The unemployment rate remained at 5.1%. The August and July numbers both had big downward reductions.  These numbers give the Federal Reserve more ammo to not to raise interest rates. (Bloomberg)
 
Investor sentiment continues to deteriorate. Bullish investors dipped to 24.7%, from 26% a week ago. That is a big drop from late April when the bulls were 57.4%. Optimism is now below the March 2009 low of 26.4%. This dire negativity may present a buying opportunity. (CNBC)
 
Retailer Nordstrom announced they will pay a special dividend of $4.85 per share and a new $1 billion share repurchase program. (CNBC)
 
With just 84 days till Christmas the U.S. Postal Service has released a new "A Charlie Brown Christmas" stamps in celebration of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the classic TV special, which originally aired on Dec. 9, 1965. (USA Today)
 
Join us Saturday at 10 for Financial Focus Radio when health insurance expert Don Klippenes will join us. We will discuss how health insurers will lose about $2.5 billion because patients covered through Obamacare last year were sicker than expected. (AP)
 



On the first day of the final quarter of 2015 stocks are higher again this morning. Wall Street closed out a negative September with the S&P 500, and Nasdaq both down about 7% for the third quarter. The fourth quarter has traditionally been positive for the market. Stock indices have rallied in four of the past five Octobers. (CNBC)
 
Layoffs by U.S.-based companies surged in September to 58,877 jobs, up 43% from August. The layoff count in the third quarter was 205,759, making it the worst quarter for job cuts in six years. Hewlett-Packard accounted for a big part of the reductions cutting 32,500 jobs. Energy remained the biggest job-cutting sector for the year, with 72,708 cuts announced since January. (Challenger, Gray & Christmas)
 
Wal-Mart will cut hundreds of jobs at its Arkansas headquarters in an effort to cut costs. The cuts make up a small portion of the more than 18,000 people employed there. (Reuters)
 
Spice maker McCormick reported fiscal third-quarter profit of $97.6 million. The results fell short of Wall Street expectations. The company posted revenue of $1.06 billion in the period. McCormick shares have climbed 11% this year. (AP)  
 


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