Business News Archives for 2021-06


A federal court dismissed the Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust complaint against Facebook, dealing a major setback for the FTC’s complaint that could have resulted in Facebook divesting Instagram and WhatsApp.  Shares of Facebook rose more than 3% following the complaint’s dismissal, sending the social media company’s market capitalization above $1trillion for the first time.

 

Shares of Boeing traded lower after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told the company that their planned 777X wide body long range jet is not yet ready for a significant certification step and warned it “realistically” will not certify the airplane until mid to late 2023.  The 777X will be the first major jet to be certified since software flaws in two Boeing 737 MAX planes caused fatal crashes.

 

Shares of Morgan Stanley are trading higher after they announced they will double their quarterly common stock dividend to $0.70 per share from the current $0.35 per share.  In addition, the Firm announced a new increased repurchase authorization of outstanding common stock of up to $12 billion through June 30, 2022.



US Stocks had their best week since February last week, and also closed at an all-time-high.

 

A massive, bipartisan infrastructure deal appeared to be revitalized yesterday after President Joe Biden clarified that he doesn’t plan to veto the legislation if it comes without a separate reconciliation bill favored by Democrats.  The President and a bipartisan group of senators, declared that the group had reached a multibillion-dollar deal to improve the nation’s roads, bridges, waterways and broadband after weeks of negotiation.  Democrats have been pushing for a second bill that would include funding for issues like climate change, child care, health care and education.

 

Oregon’s lowest-paid workers will be earning more beginning July 1 — as much as $14 an hour for some.  It’s the sixth of seven increases the Oregon  Legislature mandated in 2016, which have steadily raised the state’s hourly minimum from $9.25. Oregon will have one of the highest minimum wages in the nation when the new rates kick in July 1, but the rate varies considerably depending on where you work
 



Cyclical stocks like Caterpillar (CAT) and Vulcan Materials (VMC) took the lead in afternoon trading on Thursday after President Biden announced a bipartisan deal on infrastructure spending. The agreement features $579B of spending above expected federal levels and a total $973B of investment over five years - $1.2T if continued over eight years.

 

Nike shares surged more than 13% Friday morning, hitting a record high, after the sneaker maker forecast full-year sales topping $50 billion as its North American business rebounds from the lows of the pandemic.  In Greater China sales appear to be improving, with Nike management saying the company is confident about its ability to regain trust with customers there, amid threats to boycott Western brands over their comments expressing concern about forced labor in Xinjiang.  During the three-month period ended May 31, Nike’s total revenue nearly doubled to $12.34 billion from $6.31 billion a year earlier.

 

A key inflation indicator that the Federal Reserve uses to set policy rose 3.4% in May, the fastest increase since the early 1990s, the Commerce Department reported Friday.  The core personal consumption expenditures price index increase reflects the rapid pace of economic expansion and resulting price pressures, and amplified how far the nation has come since the Covid pandemic-induced shutdown of 2020.



Big banks could be on the verge of delivering tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars to investors following results from the Fed's stress tests today. In March, the central bank said it will end the temporary restrictions on returning capital after June 30, assuming the institutions pass the CCAR round of tests. Plans for stock buybacks or dividends are likely to be announced on Monday after the banks tinker with their proposals following the regulatory results.

 

Resorts World Las Vegas unlocks its doors today in what will be the biggest casino property opening on the Strip in more than a decade. The $4.3B Resorts World Las Vegas property, the most expensive property ever developed in Sin City, features 3.5K hotel rooms. It also has a large theater where Celine Dion and Katy Perry will be in residency later this year, while the timing of the opening is advantageous given the huge traffic expected on the Strip during the 4th of July weekend.

 

Initial claims for unemployment insurance remained elevated last week as employers struggled to fill a record amount of job openings. First-time filings totaled 411,000 for the week ended June 19, a slight decrease from the previous total of 418,000, the Labor Department reported



Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) joined Apple (AAPL) in the exclusive $2T market cap club on Tuesday - before pulling back - as investors bet on long-term growth for both earnings and revenue. The two are the only American companies to have ever reached such a valuation, though the other Big Tech names are close behind, including Amazon's (AMZN) market cap of $1.8T and Alphabet's (GOOG, GOOGL) $1.7T.  While it took Microsoft three decades from its IPO to reach its first $1T in value in 2019, the next trillion only took two years.

 

The latest comments from Fed Chair Jerome Powell are continuing to reassure markets after the major averages closed higher on Tuesday and the Nasdaq scored a fresh record. The gains held overnight, with stocks marginally higher and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note unchanged.  Not only did the Fed Chair soothe investors who were worried about price pressures, but he said that fear of inflation alone would not be enough to prompt interest rate increases.

 

Blackstone has agreed to acquire Home Partners of America, a buyer and operator of single-family rental properties, for $6bn, a signal of confidence from the world’s largest real estate manager that the US housing market boom is here to stay.



US Stocks traded sharply higher yesterday as the market recouped some of last week’s steep losses caused by the Federal Reserves’ policy shift.

 

DoorDash announced they are partnering with Albertsons to offer on-demand grocery delivery within an hour from nearly 2,000 of Albertson’s stores, including Safeway, Vons and Jewel-Osco.  DoorDash shares are up more than 5%, while Albertsons gained more than 2%.  The partnership shows how DoorDash can help grocery stores like Albertsons compete with Amazon and Walmart, which currently lead the online grocery delivery market.

 

The Supreme Court handed a unanimous victory Monday to Division I college athletes in their fight against the NCAA over caps it sought to impose on compensation.  The court voted 9-0 to affirm lower court rulings that found that antitrust law prevented the NCAA from restricting payments to athletes. The justices rejected the NCAA’s argument that its players’ amateur status would be impossible to maintain if they could receive pay, even for education-related expenses.



The average rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage moved decidedly higher, hitting 3.25%, which is the highest rate since mid-April.  The move was a reaction to comments made Wednesday by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell following the central bank’s meeting this week. Fed officials indicated that rate hikes could come in 2023, although they didn’t mention when they would start scaling back their massive bond-buying program.

 

U.S. initial jobless claims rose 37,000 to 412,000 which is the highest level in a month.  The number of people already collecting state jobless benefits, meanwhile, rose slightly to a seasonally adjusted 3.52 million. These are known as continuing claims. This is also the lowest level since the onset of the pandemic early last year.

 

A gauge of future U.S. economic activity increased for the third consecutive month in May, suggesting the economy continues to recover from the recession caused by the pandemic.  The Conference Board said its index of leading economic indicators (LEI) rose 1.3% last month to 114.5, topping its previous peak reached in January 2020. 
 



Construction on new homes rose slightly in May, but high lumber prices and labor shortages have stymied builders and could leave many customers frustrated as the busy U.S. summer home-buying season gets underway.  Builders started construction on new homes at a 1.57 million annual pace in May.  In other words, that’s how many houses would be started in a year if construction companies did the same amount of work every month as they did in May.  The increase was somewhat of mirage, however. April’s originally reported increase of 1.57 million was trimmed to 1.52 million.  Permits to build new homes, meanwhile, fell 3% last month in another sign of the trouble builders are running into. They slipped to an annual rate of 1.68 million from a revised 1.73 million in April.

 

The Federal Reserve announced yesterday that they will leave interest rates unchanged and continue to buy $120 Billion worth of bonds in the market every month.  The Fed also said they might hike interest rates earlier than it had previously expected, penciling in two interest rate hikes in 2023.  In their statement, the Fed stuck to their guns and said the recent burst of inflation would be transitory. At the same time, they acknowledged that inflation would be much higher this year, raising its forecast for headline inflation to 3%.  According to the Fed, 11 of 18 Fed officials expect at least two rate hikes in 2023. In March, only seven expected one hike.  Seven officials now see the first hike next year, up from four in March.



The Nasdaq Composite jumped to a record high yesterday as investors rotated back into growth-oriented stocks.  Investors are giving growth and tech stocks another chance as bond yields come down. The 10-year Treasury fell below 1.43%, a three-month low. 

 

According to the Commerce Department Retail sales fell slightly last month, as consumers spent less on goods and more on activities like travel, an industry that had been hobbled by the pandemic.  The 1.3 percent decline in retail spending in May follows months of ups and downs in consumer spending, driven by the persistence of the coronavirus that had kept many people away from airports and restaurants.

 

Come July 15, the IRS will start issuing payments to people eligible for the expanded child tax credit as part of the coronavirus relief package.  Rather than wait until taxpayers file their 2021 tax returns, the agency will start sending monthly advance payments worth half of the total credit. Payments will come on the 15th of the month for six months. Then taxpayers can take the rest of the credit on their 2021 return.  But there may be good reasons for some taxpayers to refuse to take the monthly tax experts said.  If your eligibility changes over the course of the year because you earn more income, you will have to pay back any overpayments when you file your 2021 tax return. 

 



The S&P 500 rose to an all-time high yesterday as investors shrugged off a key inflation report that showed a bigger-than-expected increase in price pressures.

 

The Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 9,000 a seasonally adjusted 376,000 for the week ended June 5. That was the lowest since mid-March 2020 when the first wave of COVID-19 infections barreled through the country.  Claims have now decreased for six straight weeks. The drop in applications was led by California and Pennsylvania.  The number of people continuing to receive benefits after an initial week of aid decreased 258,000 to 3.5 million during the week ended May 29. These so-called continuing claims had been stuck in a 3.6 million-3.8 million range since the middle of March, indicating workers were rejoining the labor force.

 

The net worth of U.S. households climbed to new heights as 2021 began.  Thanks largely to a surge in the stock market and in home prices, the total balance sheet for households and nonprofits rose to $137 trillion in the first quarter, a 4% gain from the end of 2020, according to the Federal Reserve.

 



Inflation in May here in the US accelerated at it’s fastest pace in 13 years as inflation pressures continued to build in the U.S. economy.  The consumer price index, which represents a basket including food, energy, groceries, housing costs and sales across a spectrum of goods, rose 5% from a year ago.

 

U.S. wholesale inventories increased strongly in April as businesses replenished stocks to meet pent-up demand, but supply constraints could make it harder to maintain the current pace of inventory rebuilding.  The Commerce Department said that wholesale inventories rose 0.8% as estimated last month and were 5.2% higher than in April of last year.

 

Apple’s iOS 15 update will bring lots of new features to your iPhone when it launches this fall. Apple announced the latest iPhone software this week during its big annual developer conference.  The update will give you more options for FaceTime video chat including, finally FaceTiming with friends on Android. It also brings new privacy features that help protect your email and show you how often apps access things like your camera and microphone. And later this winter, you may even be able to add your driver’s license to Apple Wallet, depending on where you live.



Airline stocks are trading higher after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased their travel recommendations for 61 countries, including Japan, France, South Africa, Canada, Spain and Italy. United Airlines climbed over 1%, while Delta jumped 2.5%.


Shares of Boeing are higher after Southwest Airlines said they are increasing their orders for the smallest 737 Max model by nearly three dozen planes amid an improvement in travel demand.


U.S. job openings surged by nearly one million to a new record high in April, while more people voluntarily left their employment, strengthening the view that a recent moderation in job growth was due to supply constraints.  Job openings, a measure of labor demand, increased by 998,000 to 9.3 million on the last day of April, the highest level since they began tracking the data in December 2000.


U.S. small-business confidence edged lower last month, the first decline in four months, as a nationwide labor shortage and inflation worries weighed on business owners' economic outlook.



The FDA cleared the first new treatment for Alzheimer's in nearly two decades on Monday, sending shares of maker Biogen up 38% and adding $16.5B in market value. The company claims that Aduhelm, which has the molecular name aducanumab, slows down the memory-robbing disease by breaking up clumps of plaque formed on the brain called amyloid. The approval came just in time for Biogen, which is dealing with declining sales and the loss of patent protection for its top-selling drug. Despite the drug's questionable efficacy, Biogen said it would charge about $56,000 a year per patient (and wouldn't hike prices for four years).

 

Amazon's Sidewalk project goes live today without asking your permission. The "neighborhood network" pools local Internet connections from millions of Amazon Echo smart speakers and Ring devices to let smart devices have a wider range of operation. While users have not been asked to opt-in, they could still turn the capability off, though their devices won't be able to access the network.  Signals from all of Amazon's neighborhood devices join together to create what’s called a mesh network. The low-bandwidth wireless grid can stretch half a mile to connect hard-to-reach areas across urban and suburban America.

 

The Senate looks set to pass far-reaching China legislative package this week, in the broadest offensive push yet to counter increasing competition from China. The package, which initially had been expected to pass in late May before legislators punted it, looks to increase investment in research and development around advanced technology like artificial intelligence and funding for semiconductor production—necessary for just about any digital technology—closer to home.

 



G7 nations reached an agreement on a global minimum tax over the weekend after years of discussions at the OECD. At a basic level, the framework would prevent companies from shifting profits to low tax jurisdictions and ensure the biggest multinationals pay more tax in the countries in which they operate. In return, the U.S wants European nations and others to drop their Digital Service Taxes that target American Big Tech companies, but many negotiations still await. In its current form, the deal would require that companies pay at least a 15% tax on income, regardless of where they are based, making it less advantageous to relocate operations to countries with lower tax rates.

 

Going virtual again this year due to COVID-19, Apple will kick off its annual Worldwide Developer Conference at 10 AM PST. The event is catered to software developers, so don't expect any hardware announcements, though they are a possibility.  WWDC will also be an opportunity for Apple to address its developer community following two contentious disagreements with app makers, including a legal battle with Epic Games over its App Store fees and a feud with Facebook over its new privacy policies. Apple shares have been struggling since hitting a peak in late January, and they remain in correction territory. The stock is down 12% from the top seen on Jan. 26.

 

The global chip shortage disrupting the car industry and threatening the supply of consumer technology products will last for at least another year, the world’s third-largest contract electronics manufacturer has warned.  The forecast from Flex is one of the gloomiest yet as a rapid rebound in vehicle sales combined with a lockdown-driven boom in games consoles, laptops and televisions has left global chipmakers overwhelmed by increased demand.



Hedge fund billionaire Bill Ackman's special-purpose acquisition company is finally nearing a deal, after much speculation surrounding the vehicle since its launch last year. It's pursuing a tie-up with Vivendi over the French media conglomerate's Universal Music Group (UMG), the world's largest music company. Pershing Square Tontine Holdings would acquire 10% of the ordinary shares of UMG for about $4B - implying an enterprise value for UMG of about $42.4B.  The deal would be the largest SPAC transaction on record, It also come at a time when the SPAC market is cooling.  

 

Finance ministers are set to meet in London on Friday and Saturday, and are poised to announce that they have agreed the principles for a new system of international corporate taxation.  The proposed regime would both create a new right for countries to tax the largest multinationals’ profits based on where they make their sales and a global minimum effective corporate tax rate of 15 per cent, which would raise significant sums of money in the US.

 

Job creation disappointed again in May, with nonfarm payrolls up what normally would be considered a solid 559,000 but still short of lofty expectations, the Labor Department reported Friday.  The unemployment rate fell to 5.8% from 6.1%.  Just over 6 in 10 people are participating in the labor force.  
 



The meme trade has been resurfacing in recent weeks, but really picked up pace in the last few sessions, as retail favorite AMC Entertainment continues to make headlines. A 95% gain to $62/share on Wednesday - following four trading halts - left the movie theater chain with a market capitalization of $31.3B, making it more valuable than half of the companies in the S&P 500. That follows a 23% climb on Tuesday, a 200% advance in the last week and 3,600% return since the beginning of the year.  Much of the price gains have been attributed to swarm trading, as well as gamification, where traders pile into popular names, ignoring fundamentals, technicals and other catalysts.

 

It's becoming harder to find goods and services that haven't increased in price in recent months.  Case in point: Kimberly-Clark began June by raising prices on consumer goods by 4% to 9%, Scotts Miracle-Gro will follow suit this summer, and Procter & Gamble has said it will mark up prices in the fall. Price tags on appliances from Whirlpool and others have meanwhile risen by double-digit percentages from a year ago, while Costco is raising labels by 20% or more for beef and up to 10% for clothing. Restaurant costs are rising too - Chipotle just upped delivery prices by 4%.

 

Initial jobless claims fell below 400,000 for the first time since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Labor Department reported this morning.  First-time filings for unemployment benefits totaled 385,000 for the week ended May 29, a decline from the previous week’s 405,000 and below the Dow Jones estimate of 393,000.



The latest cyberattack on an American supply chain was felt yesterday as JBS - the biggest meat producer in the U.S. (and the world) - reported a ransomware breach that shut down all its beef facilities. The company's meatpacking plants also experienced some level of disruption due to the hack which was attributed to a notorious criminal gang based out of Russia. JBS sells beef and pork under the Swift brand, and is also the owner of Pilgrim's Pride, the second-largest U.S. chicken producer.

 

Economists are already debating whether, or to what degree, stimulus spending is fueling inflation, with consumer prices rising by a whopping 4.2% in April. Prices of lumber, steel and semiconductors are also at record highs, given historically low inventories and surging demand. Port congestion and rising freight costs are meanwhile adding to price pressures amid a scarcity of shipping containers, as well as dwindling warehouse space.

 

Shares of AMC Entertainment reached $37.52 this morning, opening at an all-time high. On Tuesday, AMC reported it had sold 8.5 million newly issued shares to Mudrick Capital, the latest in a series of capital raises for the meme stock. The hedge fund later turned around and sold all of its AMC stock for a profit, according to a report from Bloomberg News.  AMC said in a securities filing that it raised $230 million through a stock sale to the investment firm. The movie theater operator said it would use the funds for potential acquisitions, upgrading its theaters and deleveraging its balance sheet.
 



President Biden unveiled his first budget before the weekend that detailed $6T in spending for FY2022, including two infrastructure proposals, an increase in military resources, as well as domestic programs like scientific research and renewable energy. In total, the plan would raise federal spending to $8.2T per year by 2031, meaning annual deficits of over $1.3T (and $1.8T in 2022). Other policy promises that weren't included in the budget may add to the weighty costs: student loan forgiveness, lowering the Medicare age to 60, creating a public healthcare option and reducing prescription drug prices.  The U.S. has already returned to the record debt-to-GDP ratio last seen in the aftermath of World War II

 

The latest OPEC+ gathering takes place via videoconference today as pandemic travel continues to prevent the usual meeting spot in Vienna. The group is now holding monthly meetings, giving it more immediate power to make decisions on current oil market conditions, as well as room to maneuver. It's also a signal that OPEC+ producers are wary about how things might play out in the months as they try to balance expectations of a recovery in demand against a possible supply increase from Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude producer. Crude prices have risen from $60 toward the $70 level, and are up more than 30% in 2021 alone
 


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