Business News Archives for 2015-12

Stocks Flat for the Year

It is the New Year in Asia and markets were mostly down on the day, but the Shanghai Composite ended the year up 9.4% and Japan's Nikkei was up 9.3% in 2015. (CNBC)
The oil market is ending the year on a down note, with prices down by a third in 2015. U.S. government data released on Wednesday showed a surprise 2.6-million-barrel build in U.S. crude stockpiles. (Reuters)
ConocoPhillips and NuStar Energy are about ready to sail the first tanker of freely traded U.S. crude oil following the lifting of a 40-year-old oil export ban. The shipment could be at sea by the end of today. (WSJ)
Bad news for lots of you muni-bond holders; Puerto Rico will default on a portion of a $1 billion loan due to bondholders on January 4th. Puerto Rican officials say they will not be able to make two out of the 13 total payments. (CNBC)
Weight Watchers' stock was up 19% yesterday as the company launched an advertising campaign starring Oprah Winfrey. The media icon bought a 10% stake in the company in October. The stock is up over 300% since then. (CNBC)

Real Estate Listings Fall

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index rose 5.5% in the 12 months ending in October. Rising demand, however, hasn't been met with an increase in sales listings, causing prices to rise much faster than inflation or wages this year. Gains have been uneven. San Francisco, Denver and Portland led with an annual increase of 10.9%. The index remains 11.5% below its peak in July 2006. The National Association of Realtors says home sales are on track to rise roughly 5% in 2015.  Limited supply is pushing up prices. The number of listings has dropped 1.9% from a year ago. (AP)
The increasing returns on short-term bonds is outpacing that of long-term bonds. This has led to a flattening yield curve. On the short-term side of the yield curve, rates climbed.  Long-term bonds, like the U.S. 10-year and the U.S. 30-year note,  have not seen a similar move, as inflation remains muted. This narrowing difference between short-term and long-term Treasury yields could be signaling market volatility. (CNBC)
Portland based Lattice Semiconductor will pay a $5000 state civil penalty after tossing personal information of 145 current and former employees in a public landfill. It tossed a file cabinet that contained some employees' I-9 forms into an unsecured landfill during an office move. (Oregonian)

A Handful of Days Left

With three trading days left in 2015, the S&P 500 is basically flat, yet has paid about a 2% dividend, which means the index beat gold, which is down about 10%. The 10-year Treasury Note has had a total return of only about 1.5%. Oil is down 31%. (
Grocer Whole Foods is paying $500,000 in fines and will submit to quarterly in-store audits at all New York City locations to end an investigation into overcharging for pre-packaged foods at stores. The stock is down 0.25% in early trading on the news. (CNBC)
Tired of low interest rates on your bank account? JPMorgan Chase will begin in January to raise deposit rates for a number of its largest customers, including most institutional clients, the Wall Street Journal reports.  When rates will begin to climb on retail accounts remains to be seen. 
Oregon measuring company Rentrak shareholders and are set to vote on the merger with comScore. The companies will hold special meetings on Jan. 28th. ComScore’s shareholders will own 66.5% of the combined company and Rentrak will own 33.5%. (Portland Business Journal)
S&P 500 is up 10 and the NASDAQ is up 26. The MSCI International Index is higher.
Oil is up 32 cents at $37.13 a barrel. In a sign oil prices may be lower longer; Saudi Arabia is scaling back energy and water subsidies in an effort to rein in a $98 billion budget deficit resulting from low oil prices. (FT)  

It's All About Retail Sales

As we start the last trading week of 2015 it is all about retail sales, most of the internet kind.  Amazon said its Prime service had a "record-setting" holiday season. More than 3 million members joined Prime in the third week of December alone, bringing its total membership to tens of millions. Amazon says 200 million items received free shipping this year, reaching a record. (CNBC)
FedEx  was forced to run extra shifts to clear a backlog of deliveries through Christmas day. A spokesperson cited a combination of unforeseen volume and severe winter weather for the delay. (CNBC)
Strong online sales and demand for furniture and women's apparel helped U.S. retail sales grow by 7.9% this holiday season. U.S. retail sales grew 5.5% during the same period last year. Online sales grew 20% this year. The National Retail Federation, had forecast a 3.7% rise in store and online sales this holiday season. Online sales were projected to rise 6% to 8%. (Reuters/Master Card)
Consumer sentiment rose to 92.6 in December. The December reading was nearly equal to the 2015 average of 92.9 — which was the highest since 2004. (Fox Business News)

Crude Spread Disappears

Another big day for oil prices! West Texas Intermediate yesterday settled at a premium to its global counterpart Brent crude for the first time in more than five years, and the spread between the two oil benchmarks is now nonexistent. While the lifting of the oil export ban and a surprise dip in inventories could be triggering the move, analysts focused on investor sentiment ahead of the holidays, with traders covering shorts and squaring away their positions.  (SA)
Meanwhile, OPEC has published its closely watched annual World Oil Outlook, which anticipates the price of its basket of crudes to rise to $70/bbl in 2020 and $95/bbl by 2040.  The forecast also underlined demand expectations for OPEC crude to reach nearly 31m bpd in 2020, which is a million barrels less than current production.  (Bloomberg)
A 37 per cent advance isn’t enough to make Nike shares one of the top ten performers on the S&P 500 this year, but it’s comfortably leading the Dow Jones Industrial Average.  The shares have added a further 3 per cent this morning in pre-market trading after yesterday afternoon’s quarterly results again topped Wall Street’s forecasts.  Robust demand has allowed Nike to hurdle the drag on overseas sales from a stronger dollar as the company continues to benefit from consumers’ increasing habit of wearing sports fashions outside the gym.  (FT)  
A final blitz of US economic data before Christmas has, more or less, matched forecasts.Personal spending climbed 0.3 per cent in November in an acceleration from the 0.1 per cent advance in October, according to the Commerce Department. Incomes rose a better than expected 0.3 per cent.  Consumer spending remained a bright spot for the economy last quarter, shouldering more of the burden for growth as exports were knocked by the stronger dollar. (FT)

Dollar Reversal?

Well, this is counter-intuitive: last week the Fed lifted interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. The result: the US dollar is on track to have its biggest decline in eight months.  The dollar index, which gauges the currency against global rivals, has sunk 1.8 per cent this month, through Monday. That would be its biggest monthly drop since April, when it fell 3.8 per cent.  Rising interest rates should, of course, boost the dollar. And in a sense, they did, it’s just that move was so well-telegraphed, that the climb occurred before the rate rise. (FT)
A surge of deals in the pharmaceuticals, energy and consumer sectors has pushed merger and acquisition activity to an all-time high, surpassing 2007’s peak — but dealmakers have admitted that bond market turmoil and geopolitical instability are their biggest worries for 2016.  The total value of announced transactions climbed to $4.6tn this year, compared with $4.3tn eight years ago. (FT)
Forget about delivery...drones may soon have a bigger role in social media. Twitter was granted a patent last week for an unmanned aerial vehicle, which is capable of snapping photos and videos, before sharing those items on user accounts. The company declined to comment on possible production or roll-out plans for the device, but a spokesman did say the following, "Two words: Drone selfies." (SA)
Chipotle shares hit a new 52-week low in yesterday’s trading session after the CDC said it's investigating a possible new E. coli outbreak linked to restaurants in Kansas, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. The five illnesses, reported late last month, have not been part of any of the prior CDC tallies. Chipotle shares are down 20% since the first E. coli cases were reported last month.  (Bloomberg)
S&P 500 futures are up 18, and NASDAQ futures are up 34. The MSCI International Index is up 1/5 of a %.
The oil market is recovering slightly after a volatile start to the week when Brent crude touched lows not seen since 2004.  Oil is down $.07 at $34.66 a barrel.

Amazon Looks to Build Out

U.S. stocks are lower this morning, after markets broke a three day winning streak yesterday. The S&P 500 is in the red for the year. (CNBC)
Amazon is in talks to lease 20 Boeing jets in a test of a possible air cargo business. They want to build out their own cargo operation to avoid delays from delivery services. (Seattle Times)
Procter & Gamble’s Gillette unit is suing Dollar Shave Club for patent infringement. The online shaving subscription service has rapidly gained market share over the past three years. (AP)
We should have had this for Throw-back Thursday but, BlackBerry lost 3 cents per share in the quarter, smaller than the 14 cent anticipated loss. Revenue was far above estimates. The device maker noted continuing growth in its software segment. (CNBC)
Join us this weekend for Financial Focus Radio – the truth in wealth building – when we will talk about the junk bonds you might own and how they are putting you at risk. 
S&P 500 is up 2 and the NASDAQ is up 18. The MSCI International Index is up 0.25%.
Oil is down 34 cents at $34.61 a barrel. U.S. oil lost 1.6% yesterday reaching their lowest levels since February 2009. Natural gas prices are plummeting again this morning at their lowest levels since March 1999. (Reuters)
Gold is up $7 at $1056 a Troy ounce. Gold sets at its lowest levels since February 2010.

Decision Day

The day we've all been waiting for has finally arrived. The Fed is expected to hike interest rates when its two-day policy meeting concludes later today, marking the end of a decade of near zero interest rates. But how much and how fast could the Fed raise rates in the coming months? The answer to that question is likely to come from the triple-dose of news the central bank will issue this afternoon - a policy statement, economic forecasts and a news conference by Chair Janet Yellen. Stocks are green across the globe ahead of the big decision. (SA)
The Justice Department has informed oil service companies Halliburton and Baker Hughes that the remedies they've offered so far to mitigate their proposed merger's affect on competition are inadequate, although it will continue to assess further proposals. As a result, the companies have agreed to extend their merger deadline to next April (Bloomberg).
Some of the nation’s largest Apartment owners - including REITs Equity Residential and Camden Property Trust, are in discussions about allowing tenants to market rooms through Airbnb's network in exchange for a slice of the revenue. Already at odds with Airbnb, hotel owners may not be too pleased with even more apartments in big cities being essentially converted into hotel rooms. (WSJ).
Lawmakers have agreed to lift the four-decade-old ban on crude oil exports as part of a spending and tax package that will be voted on as early as Thursday. The spending measure also includes temporary wind and solar power tax credits. Lifting the crude export ban has been a key goal for Republicans, who have said American oil producers should get expanded access to the international market, at a time of low prices and new competition from Iranian oil. (SA) 

Zero. Nada. Nothing.

Citing a slow-growth global economy, 3M has lowered its 2015 earnings outlook. 3M now expects full-year growth of about 1%, compared with previous guidance of 1.5 to 2%. For 2016, 3M sees earnings per share increasing 7% to 12% with sales growth of 1% to 3%. (CNBC)
Zero. Nada, Nothing. That is the consumer inflation level in November. If you take out food an energy inflation is up 2% for the last year.  That is the highest level since July of 2012.  (Fox Business News)
If you have been chasing yield and are unlucky enough to own high yield bonds you have been feeling this pain. Fitch Ratings says high-yield issuers have now posted at least $1.5 billion in defaults every month for 13 straight months. That's just one month short of the streak at the peak of the 2008 financial crisis. (CNBC)
The deadline is today for those without health care insurance to sign up for Obamacare in time for coverage to begin on Jan. 1. People have until Jan. 31 to obtain insurance or face the penalty. (USA Today)
Just 10 days till Christmas and 22%, of employed Americans expect to receive a holiday bonus and12% percent anticipate a pay raise this holiday season. (CNBC)

Oil makes for a Slippery Slope

This week we head into an expected Fed interest rate hike, first time in nine years.  U.S. stocks turned negative this morning after being up strong early. (CNBC)
Consumer confidence climbed in December to the highest level in four months. The University of Michigan’s index of sentiment rose to 91.8 The gauge has averaged 92.9 this year, the best since 2004. All of the increase in confidence  was attributed to households at the bottom two-thirds of the income ladder. (Bloomberg)
Household net worth is now 25% above pre-Great Recession peak. At the end of Q3 the value of households' assets exceeded liabilities by $85 trillion. That's a $2 trillion increase from Q3 2014. Just prior to the Great Recession, household net worth stood at $68 trillion, and was as low as $55 trillion. (LPL Research)
Newell Rubbermaid, the maker of Sharpie markers, is  buying Jarden, maker of Sunbeam appliances and Coleman products. The company will have combined sales of $16 billion. (Reuters)

Fed Speak and EM Turmoil

Fed Chair Janet Yellen will speak before Congressional lawmakers today, her second straight day of comments on the state of the economy. Yesterday, she suggested the pace of future rate hikes could depend on “actual progress” in meeting inflation targets. That’s a shift from the requirement the Federal Open Market Committee set for an initial move, to be “reasonably confident” that inflation would shift back to its goal over the medium term. The language adds to the reasons to expect that rates will rise gradually after a widely-anticipated liftoff later this month.  (Blooomberg)
In emerging markets news, Brazil's benchmark stock-market index climbed by almost 4 per cent on Thursday a day after the country's Congress said it will start impeachment proceedings against Dilma Rousseff, the country's embattled president.  The country is in the midst of a deepening political and economic crisis that has sent the nation spiraling into what is now being called an outright depression by some analysts.  (FT)
AB InBev is exploring selling SAB Miller's Peroni and Grolsch beer businesses in Europe as the pair take steps to head off competition fears ahead of their $105bn tie-up.  The mega-deal will create a brewing group that accounts for one third of the world's beer supply.  SAB Miller has already announced it will sell its stake in MillerCoors here in the US in order to gain regulatory approval.  Analysts expect that the company will divest its Snow business in China as well.  (FT)
Saudi Arabia has thrown down a challenge to big rival oil producers ahead of tomorrow's OPEC meeting, saying it would back output cuts as long as they were supported by countries both inside, and outside the cartel. The move indicates a further softening in tone from the world's largest oil exporter which led OPEC’s landmark shift in policy a year ago. Although oil prices settled below $40 a barrel yesterday, crude futures are now  …up .75 cents at $40.69 a barrel.  (SA)

Jobs Report is in

The first helping of US jobs news this week suggests the American labor market is sustaining its momentum.  The US created 217,000 jobs in November, better than Wall Street economists had forecast, while October's tally was revised higher.  Although the ADP survey has not proved a consistent forecaster of the official monthly government jobs numbers, they may soothe investors nerves ahead of an important period for economic data and central bank decisions.  (FT)
Yahoo's board is planning a series of meetings this week to consider selling the company's core Internet business, and how to make the most of its major stake in Chinese E-commerce retailer Alibaba, according to the WSJ.  Growing concerns have been popping up around the company, including CEO Marissa Mayer's lack of turnaround progress, an exodus of top executives, and tax uncertainty surrounding the planned Alibaba spinoff. Mayer's job may also be on the line. (Yahoo shares +6.8% premarket). (WSJ)
The drama at Volkswagen just doesn’t stop.  Standard & Poor's has cut VW's credit rating for the second time in as many months, shortly after the automaker reported that November U.S. sales fell almost 25% from a year ago. A German auto supplier has also been accused in a new class action suit of conspiring with Volkswagen to evade diesel emissions standards in at least 11M vehicles worldwide.  (SA)
U.S. House and Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on a five-year highway bill that would also reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. The $305B bill would be partly financed by use of Fed surplus funds, and a cut in the dividends received by commercial banks that own the Fed. House Speaker Paul Ryan predicts the bill will enjoy "good majority support" when it comes up for a full vote.  (Bloomberg)

Chrysler had a good November

Following a pretty sluggish November (major U.S. indices were flat for the month despite volatile swings), traders are determining where the markets will go to close out the year. Major events this week, including a crucial ECB meeting, speeches from Janet Yellen, OPEC's conference in Vienna and the November jobs report, will likely give clues about that direction. More than a half-dozen Fed officials are also scheduled to speak over the next few days, which may provide further hints about upcoming U.S. monetary policy. (SA)
The long-running Puerto Rican debt saga may reach a turning point today as the commonwealth must choose between paying investors $354 million in principal and interest, or keeping the cash for government services. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla will appear before a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee today amid a continued lack of any consensus on how to help his administration. (Bloomberg)
Fiat Chrysler on Tuesday said it logged its best US November sales in a decade-and-half as the domestic auto industry shows little sign of slowing.  The company's Jeep brand, long an engine of growth for Chrysler, posted its best November ever, with sales jumping 20 per cent.  Chrysler said its sales got a lift from a combination of "low interest rates, oil prices and unemployment." (FT)
Despite trying to avoid holiday crowds at bricks-and-mortar stores, U.S. shoppers came face-to-face with traffic jams and product sellouts on Cyber Monday, with some customers of Target forced to wait in a virtual line. Website outages and slow checkouts during the five-day shopping spree were also reported at Neiman Marcus, Wal-Mart, Victoria's Secret, Foot Locker, and at payments processor PayPal.  Sales on Cyber Monday were expected to finish up 12% from a year earlier at just under $3bn. 


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