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Stock Market Looking Up Amid Some Trade-Related Optimism

Key Takeaways:

  • Fed’s Bullard says U.S. manufacturing appears to be in recession
  • China lowers its benchmark lending rate
  • U.S., China set to conclude second day of lower-level talks today

Welcome to quadruple witching day. It happens every quarter on the day when futures and options on indices and stocks all expire on the same day.

Maybe it’s not as ominous as its name might suggest, but these remain days when investors might want to exercise special care as there could be some heightened volatility as people unwind baskets of stocks or futures.

On Wall Street, investors this morning seem to be a bit upbeat, heartened by developments on the trade front and by yet another major economy cutting interest rates.

Today In: Money

China cut its one-year lending rate, joining the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank in dovish steps designed to help stimulate economies by reducing borrowing costs. The moves come amid rising worries about global economic growth as the trade war between the United States and China drags on. (See more below.)

On the trade front, China and the United States are scheduled today to conclude two-day negotiations that began yesterday, seemingly with the aim of paving the way for higher level discussions next month.

The discussions come as there has been a bit of a thaw recently in the chilly trade relationship between the world’s two largest economies. Among recent developments, the Trump administration has excluded hundreds of Chinese items from a 25% tariff.

Resistance Near Record Highs

We’ve been talking for a while about how the U.S.-China trade war seems to be creating a cap that the stock market may not be able to meaningfully breach until the dispute between the world’s two largest economies comes to some sort of definitive conclusion.

That narrative seemed to be in play Thursday with stocks near all-time highs but losing momentum throughout the day. The S&P 500 Index (SPX) closed above 3000 after making it above 3,020. But without a catalyst to push stocks into record territory, this area between 3000 and the all-time high of 3027.98 looks to be an area of resistance.

True, the Fed didn’t give market participants much to get really excited about this week when the central bank delivered an as-expected rate cut. But it seems like the unresolved trade issue could be the bigger weight here.

While optimism around the two-day negotiations may have helped boost the market early Thursday, that sentiment may have been tempered by comments from a White House adviser in a media report that the United States could escalate the trade conflict if a deal isn’t reached soon. Meanwhile, a tweet from the editor of the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China said that “China is not as anxious to reach a deal as the U.S. side thought.”

Reading the Fed Tea Leaves

With mixed signals on the trade front, the market was left to scratch its head about what the Fed might do after its latest rate cut—not exactly a recipe for a rip-roaring day of gains in equities.

It’s arguable that the Fed has left the market in a holding pattern as investors seem unconvinced that the current central bank trajectory is as pro-growth as they want it to be.

But even though there seems to be wariness about the Fed’s language when it comes to interest rates, there could be some percolating excitement about a different type of stimulus that the central bank might have up its sleeve.

Still, without clear direction or conviction, investors seem to be holding off from making a big rotation into any one style of equities, leaving cyclicals still in play even as market participants may also be eyeing defensive sectors.

Today, investors and traders are likely looking to a slate of Fed speakers to try to gain some clarity on the central bank’s thinking. Additionally, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard posted a note explaining his dissent in the Fed’s recent decision to cut its key rate by 25 basis points. Bullard had wanted a 50-basis-point cut, citing expected slowing U.S. economic growth, trade policy uncertainty, rising recession probability estimates, and a U.S. manufacturing sector that “already appears in recession.”

Next week could offer the market further direction on the economy as investors and traders are scheduled to see data releases on consumer confidence and sentiment, new home sales, personal spending, and durable goods orders, as well as the government’s third estimate of gross domestic product.

A Firming Foundation: It’s been a pretty good week for housing market data. Yesterday, figures on existing home sales for August came in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million. That was up from 5.42 million in July and beat a Briefing.com consensus of 5.36 million. That came after figures showing August housing starts and building permits came in above expectations. Briefing.com pointed out that lower mortgage rates were behind the strength in existing home sales. “The August sales strength cut the inventory of homes for sale,” Briefing.com said. “That will keep upward pressure on home prices, which in turn is likely going to necessitate the need for mortgage rates to stay down to drive ongoing sales growth.”

Will King Consumer’s Crown Stay Shiny? With the health of the U.S. consumer one of the top issues on the minds of investors and traders along with the trade war and Brexit, market participants are likely to be eyeing next week’s reports on consumer confidence and consumer sentiment with some interest. From the data we’ve been seeing, the U.S. consumer has been helping the economy continue to power along. GDP isn’t going gangbusters, but it’s still pretty solid, and the consumer has a lot to do with that. This could be a comforting sign to investors even as the trade war continues to drag on. If prices at the retail level move up due to tariffs and other cost pressures, consumer resilience could help cushion the U.S. economy.

Global Economic Outlook Darkens: While the U.S. consumer has been one of the backstops to the domestic economy, worries about the global economy in the face of the continued trade war are ratcheting up. The OECD is projecting that the global economy will expand by 2.9% this year and 3% next year, which would be the weakest annual growth rates since the financial crisis. And downside risks continue to mount, the group said Thursday. “Escalating trade conflicts are taking an increasing toll on confidence and investment, adding to policy uncertainty, aggravating risks in financial markets, and endangering already weak growth prospects worldwide,” the OECD said.

TD Ameritrade® commentary for educational purposes only. Member SIPC.

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I am Chief Market Strategist for TD Ameritrade and began my career as a Chicago Board Options Exchange market maker, trading primarily in the S&P 100 and S&P 500 pits. I’ve also worked for ING Bank, Blue Capital and was Managing Director of Option Trading for Van Der Moolen, USA. In 2006, I joined the thinkorswim Group, which was eventually acquired by TD Ameritrade. I am a 30-year trading veteran and a regular CNBC guest, as well as a member of the Board of Directors at NYSE ARCA and a member of the Arbitration Committee at the CBOE. My licenses include the 3, 4, 7, 24 and 66.

Source: Stock Market Looking Up Amid Some Trade-Related Optimism

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It was a big week for the bulls as optimism for a new trade deal gained steam. With CNBC’s Melissa Lee and the Fast Money traders, Tim Seymour, Brian Kelly, Dan Nathan and Guy Adami.

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Datadog Stock Surges 39%: Its CEO Recounts When The Company Was An Underdog In New York

Shares of New York-based Datadog rose 39% to close at $37.55 after opening at $40.35 in the cloud company’s market debut Thursday. The successful IPO cements Datadog’s position as an East Coast counterweight to Silicon Valley’s dominance of the enterprise software realm.

“Initially when we started fundraising for Datadog, it was really not that easy,” CEO Olivier Pomel told Forbes after the market closed Thursday. “We were not based where most of the companies were based, so it was hard to get trust from investors on the West Coast. And the investors in New York were not really specialized in the type of company we were building.”

Pomel said this underdog tale worked to the advantage of Datadog. By relying on small checks and angel investors at first, the company was forced to build an efficient business, he said. That’s become a huge asset to the nine-year-old company as it ballooned to a $10.9 billion valuation at the end of Thursday. It reported a net loss of $10.8 million, after posting a $2.6 million loss the year prior—good numbers for a fast-growing company of its stature.

Higher net losses usually accompany recent enterprise tech IPOs with comparable revenue figures, such as with Medallia ($82 million), Dynatrace ($116 million) and Crowdstrike ($140 million). “One thing investors reacted to was the fact that we run a healthy business from a profitability perspective,” Pomel said.

Today In: Innovation

“What helped the most by being in New York was that we’re a little bit closer to customers—there’s more of them here. And, you’re out of the echo chamber in the Silicon Valley so here you can get ahead on what the customers think,” he said. One early investment came from Index Ventures, which has backed Datadog beginning with the Series A funding round. Shardul Shah, a partner at the firm who also sits on Datadog’s board, says he bought in because of Pomel’s “relentless focus on delivering customer value from the very beginning.”

The successes of MongoDB and now Datadog could spur the growth of an enterprise ecosystem in New York. Prior to its market debut, Datadog had raised $147.9 million on what Pitchbook estimates as a $640 million valuation. The IPO is New York’s largest venture capital-backed tech IPO in two decades, according to Renaissance Capital.

Now trading on Nasdaq under the “DDOG” ticker, the company priced 24 million shares at $27 on Wednesday. That’s higher than the $24-to-$26 estimated IPO price listed in its latest filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which was already a huge boost from the $19-to-$22 range the company originally set. At its IPO price, Datadog raised $648 million to bring its valuation to $7.8 billion. Pomel said the added cash on hand will offer the company the flexibility to continue making acquisitions. He said he’s happy with Datadog’s acquisitions so far, including application tester Madumbo.

At Datadog’s opening stock price, CEO Olivier Pomel was on the cusp of billionaire status. Forbes calculates that the stock would need to surpass about $43 per share for Pomel’s net worth to cross the $1 billion mark—at the stock’s high point of $41.44, Pomel was $35 million short. After the stock price declined slightly over the course of Thursday, Pomel’s net worth settled at $874 million at the time of market close, but that doesn’t seem to bother him: “The stock, it’s up a good amount, but not too much. I think that’s what we were looking for.”

Datadog offers a cloud analytics platform that also provides log management and monitors infrastructure and application performance. Its software is primarily used by IT and developer teams and cuts across industries—it boasts customers including Samsung, 21st Century Fox, the University of Pennsylvania and the Washington Post. In its S-1, the company identified IT operations management as its primary opportunity market. Research firm Gartner predicts the market will be worth $37 billion by 2023.

The IPO reflects continued investor demand for cloud analytics and monitoring. In August alone, application performance management company Dynatrace’s stock jumped 49% in its public debut, while cloud monitoring vendor SignalFx was acquired by Splunk for more than $1 billion. In its S-1 filing, Datadog lists both Dynatrace and Splunk as direct competitors. The company also counts IBM, Microsoft, Cisco, New Relic and Amazon as rivals across fields such as infrastructure monitoring, application performance management and cloud monitoring.

Datadog jumped to No. 5 on this year’s Forbes Cloud 100 list, which was released last week, up from the No. 19 spot in 2018. As of last Wednesday, half of last year’s top 20 sold or went public, with eight taking the latter route amid a busy couple of months for cloud IPOs. Although most of these stocks—such as Zoom, Slack and Crowdstrike—had strong public debuts, some including Slack and Eventbrite have failed to maintain this momentum. Stripe, the No. 1 company in 2018 and 2019, announced a new funding round Thursday that brings its valuation up to $35 billion.

Datadog filed with the SEC in anticipation of its IPO at the end of August. Revenue increased 97% to $198 million in 2018, according to its S-1 filing. The cloud company reportedly rejected an eleventh-hour acquisition offer from Cisco at a figure “significantly higher” than $7 billion, according to Bloomberg. The move would have paralleled Cisco’s 2017 acquisition of AppDynamics for $3.7 billion, just two nights prior to the application performance management company’s IPO.

This article was updated to include the closing stock price, additional context on finances and comments from Pomel and Shah.

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I am a San Francisco-based assistant editor for technology and innovation. As my beat, I cover Juul Labs. I also write other general tech news. Previously, I made stops at The Ringer and the Raleigh News & Observer. I graduated in 2019 from Duke University, where I spent time as news editor for The Chronicle, the university’s independent news organization.

Source: Datadog Stock Surges 39%: Its CEO Recounts When The Company Was An Underdog In New York

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The Watch List: Jonathan Lehr came on The Watch List to discuss what the Datadog IPO means for NYC’s enterprise tech ecosystem.

Sell Stocks And Pay Off Your Mortgage

It’s hard to borrow yourself rich—especially when you can’t deduct the interest.

A friend from Connecticut tells me she and her husband were recently inspired to sell some securities and pay off their mortgage. She figures the market is due for a correction.

A clever move, I say, and not just because stocks are richly priced. Mortgages, even though rates are at near-record lows, are expensive. And there’s a tax problem.

The tax angle relates to what went into effect last year—something Trump called a tax cut, although it raised federal taxes for a lot of people in high-tax states like Connecticut. For our purposes what matters is that the law made mortgages undesirable.

Used to be that people would say, “I took out a mortgage because I need the deduction.” That doesn’t work so well now. The new law has a standard deduction of $24,400 for a couple, and you have to clear this hurdle before the first dollar of benefit comes from a deduction for mortgage interest.

Today In: Money

Most middle-class homeowners aren’t itemizing at all. For them, the aftertax cost of a 4% mortgage is 4%.

If you are still itemizing, your interest deduction may not be worth much. You are probably claiming the maximum $10,000 in state and local taxes. (If you aren’t, you are living in an igloo in a state without an income tax.) That means the first $14,400 of other deductions don’t do anything for you.

A couple with $2,400 of charitable donations and $15,000 of interest is in effect able to deduct only a fifth of the interest. The aftertax cost of the mortgage depends on these borrowers’ tax bracket, but will probably be in the neighborhood of 3.7%.

Before 2018, your finances were very different. You no doubt topped the standard deduction (which was lower then) with just the write-off for state and local taxes (which didn’t have that $10,000 cap). So all of your mortgage interest went to work in reducing federal taxes. You could do a little arbitrage.

If your aftertax cost of a 4% mortgage was 2.7%, an investment yielding 3% aftertax yielded a positive spread. You’d hold onto that investment instead of paying off the mortgage. It was quite rational to sit on a pile of 3% tax-exempt bonds while taking out a 4% mortgage to buy a house.

Now that sort of scheme doesn’t make sense. The aftertax yield on muni bonds is way less than than the aftertax cost of a mortgage. This is true of corporate bonds, too: Their aftertax return, net of defaults, is less than the cost of a mortgage today.

So, if you have excess loot outside your retirement accounts, and it’s invested in bonds, you’d come out ahead paying off a mortgage.

What about stocks? Should you, like my friend, sell stocks held in a taxable account in order to pay off your mortgage? This is a trickier question. If your stocks are highly appreciated, perhaps not. You could hang onto them and avoid the capital gains.

If they are not appreciated, or if you have a windfall and you’re deciding whether the stock market or your mortgage is the place to use it, the trade-off changes.

Stock prices are, by historical measures, quite high in relation to their earnings. The market’s long-term future return is correspondingly less.

Financiers

In the short term, stocks are entirely unpredictable. Neither my friend, nor I, nor Warren Buffett can tell you whether there will be a crash next year to vindicate her decision or another upward lurch that will make her regretful.

For the long term, though, you can use earnings yields to arrive at an expected return. I explain the arithmetic here. A realistic expectation for real annual returns is between 3% and 4%. Add in inflation and you’ve got a nominal return not much more than 5%.

From that, subtract taxes. You’ve got a base federal tax of 15% or 20% on dividends and long-term gains. There’s also the Obamacare 3.8% if your income is above $250,000. You have state income taxes, no longer mitigated by a federal deduction for them (because you’ll probably be well above the $10,000 limit no matter what).

Add it all up, and you can look forward to an aftertax return from stocks of maybe 4%. That is, your expected return could be only a smidgen above the aftertax cost of your mortgage. Worth the risk? Not for my friend. Not for me.

What if I’m wrong about the market, and it’s destined to deliver 10%? Or what if you are a risk lover, willing to dive in with only a meager expected gain? Mortgages are still a bad way to finance your gamble.

You don’t have to borrow money at a non-tax-deductible 4%. I can tell you where to get a loan at slightly more than 2%, with the interest fully deductible.

The place to go is the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Instead of buying stocks, buy stock index futures.

When you go long an E-mini S&P 500 future you are, in effect, buying $150,000 of stock with borrowed money. You don’t see the debt; it’s built into the price of the future. The reason the loan is cheap is that futures prices are determined by arbitrageurs (like giant banks) that can borrow cheaply. The reason the interest is in effect deductible is that it comes out of the taxable gains you report on the futures.

Futures contracts are taxed somewhat more heavily than stocks. Their rate is a blend of ordinary rates and the favorable rates on dividends and long-term gains. Also, futures players don’t have the option of deferring capital gains. Even so, owning futures is way cheaper than owing money to a bank while putting money into stocks.

One caveat for people planning to burn a mortgage: Stay liquid. Don’t use up cash you may need during a stretch of unemployment.

But if you have a lot of assets in a taxable account, it’s time to rethink your mortgage. Debt is no longer a bargain.

I aim to help you save on taxes and money management costs. I graduated from Harvard in 1973, have been a journalist for 44 years, and was editor of Forbes magazine from 1999 to 2010. Tax law is a frequent subject in my articles. I have been an Enrolled Agent since 1979. Email me at williambaldwinfinance — at — gmail — dot — com.

Source: Sell Stocks And Pay Off Your Mortgage

In many situations, paying off your mortgage early could potentially be costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars…and I’ll run the numbers to show this based off real world examples. Enjoy! Add me on Snapchat/Instagram: GPStephan Join the private Real Estate Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/there… The Real Estate Agent Academy: Learn how to start and grow your career as a Real Estate Agent to a Six-Figure Income, how to best build your network of clients, expand into luxury markets, and the exact steps I’ve used to grow my business from $0 to over $120 million in sales: https://goo.gl/UFpi4c This is one of those subjects that’s not intuitive for most people – you would think that paying off your mortgage early would be a really good idea. But this isn’t always the case. The reason people think this way is because they haven’t really looked at the true cost of ownership, what their money is really worth, and they only focus on the end number. On our $400,000 loan example, your payment is $1956 per month and you wind up paying $304,000 in interest over 30 years. But there are three very important considerations here: 1. The first is the mortgage interest tax write off – this is what makes real estate extremely appealing, and why keeping a mortgage helps long term.For the average person in a 23% tax bracket, with a 4.2% interest rate, after you factor in your write offs, your ACTUAL cost of interest is only 3.23%. 2. The second factor is Inflation. Because the bank is holding the entire loan over 30 years and you get to pay bits and pieces of it over time, it should be safe to assume a 2% AVERAGE inflation rate over 30 years. This means that even though you’re paying a NET interest rate now of 3.23%, if we subtract 2% annually for inflation, this means that you’re really only effectively paying 1.23% in interest after tax write offs and inflation. 3. Finally, the third factor is opportunity cost. Can you make MORE than a 1.23% return ANYWHERE ELSE adjusted for inflation? The answer is pretty much always yes. This means that if you INVEST your money instead of paying down the mortgage, mathematically over the term of the loan you’d come out ahead than if you just paid off the loan early. So with these points above, we’ll take two scenarios. In scenario one, you have a 30-year, $400,000 loan at a 4.2% interest rate that you pay off in half the time – you increase your payments from $1956 to $3000 per month in order to make this happen. Then once the loan is paid off, you invest the full amount in the stock market for another 15 years. After an additional 15 years, that works out to be just over $1,000,000. So you now have a paid of house plus a million dollars. But what happens if you kept the 30-year mortgage and instead of you paying it off in half the time by increasing your payments to $3000/mo, you just invested the extra $1050 per month instead? Because you didn’t pay down your mortgage early and you invested that extra money instead, at a 7.5% return in an SP500 index fund…at the end of 30 years, you’ll have a paid off home PLUS $1,433,000.. This means that over 30 years, that’s a difference of $433,000…by NOT paying down your mortgage early, and instead investing the difference. Although keep in mind, if you have a really high interest rate on your loan, above about 6%, it’s probably better to pay it off. This is because the upside to investing gets smaller and smaller the higher your mortgage interest rate is. But the biggest advantage of paying it off early is that with the above example, we assume the person will actually invest the money rather than pay off their loan early. In order for this calculation to work, the person needs to be disciplined enough to actually invest the different and not spend it. But for anyone with the discipline to actually stick with an investing plan instead of paying down the mortgage, statistically and mathematically, you can often make more money paying it off slowly than paying it off early. For business inquiries or one-on-one real estate investing/real estate agent consulting or coaching, you can reach me at GrahamStephanBusiness@gmail.com Suggested reading: The Millionaire Real Estate Agent: http://goo.gl/TPTSVC Your money or your life: https://goo.gl/fmlaJR The Millionaire Real Estate Investor: https://goo.gl/sV9xtl How to Win Friends and Influence People: https://goo.gl/1f3Meq Think and grow rich: https://goo.gl/SSKlyu Awaken the giant within: https://goo.gl/niIAEI The Book on Rental Property Investing: https://goo.gl/qtJqFq Favorite Credit Cards: Chase Sapphire Reserve – https://goo.gl/sT68EC American Express Platinum – https://goo.gl/C9n4e3

Why the Debate Over Stakeholder Value Vs. Shareholder Value is All Wrong

The Business Roundtable, a coalition of America’s leading corporate executives, created a firestorm with its August 19 announcement calling for corporations to create value for all stakeholders rather than simply maximizing value for their shareholders. A debate ensued over whether Milton Friedman was right or wrong in 1970 when he famously declared that the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.

Some commentators accused the executives of abandoning shareholders; others decried that they were “green-washing” or “purpose-washing:” simply making themselves look good without authentic action.

In reality, large corporations have understood for a long time the importance of creating value for all stakeholders, including their employees, customers, suppliers and communities, as well as their investors, and the Business Roundtable statement just updated the executives’ outward-facing communications to confirm a direction that is both underway and unstoppable.

The statement shows a recognition of two facts:

1.       The business case for creating stakeholder value has already been proved. Without creating value for a variety of stakeholders, and without mitigating the risks associated with subtracting value from stakeholders, a company can’t deliver profits to shareholders anyway, at least not over the medium to long term. Creating value for stakeholders, when managed strategically, doesn’t take away from enhancing profits for shareholders, it adds to it. It is part of good management. This is not a zero-sum tradeoff.

2.       The U.S. economy is suffering from fallout from short-termism, that is, investors squeezing profits out of companies with a shorter and shorter time horizon. Companies pressured to deliver greater and greater profit margins to their financial owners in the space of a quarter, or less, might not be making the investments and strategic directional decisions that will allow them to thrive in the longer term.

The Business Roundtable statement begins: “Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.”

For a long time the U.S. was known around the world as a “meritocracy.” U.S. policy aimed to provide citizens with equal opportunity, for example through public education or public libraries, and to reward those who worked hard and applied their talent. The “American Dream” refers to the aspiration of immigrants from around the world that they could come to America and within a generation, see the fruits of their labor rewarded through upward social mobility.

But Michael Young, the U.K. Labour Party strategist who coined the term “meritocracy,” knew that once the most talented workers rose through the capitalist system, over time this new elite would naturally consolidate its power, leaving behind those less equipped to succeed, and eventually stratifying society.

The fact that this has occurred in America is widely known, and most political campaigns on both sides of the spectrum claim to want to address the extreme levels of societal stratification now so evident.

The Business Roundtable has recognized that while corporations must be well-managed for the benefit of their owners, U.S. capitalism needs to find ways to ensure a longer-term vision than the one that has morphed out of the automation of stock trading, the rise of passive investing, and the power of activist shareholders wanting to squeeze value out of a company no matter the broader context.

The investor community itself has been alarmed, as evidenced by the rise of a movement subscribing to “Principles for Responsible Investment,” which promotes inclusion of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria in evaluating investments, and which now has more than 2300 signatories representing more than 80 trillion dollars in assets under management.

Tensie Whelan, director of the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, notes the difference between value extraction from a company (through “maximizing short-term profits and boosting stock price, often at the expense of stakeholders other than shareholders”) and value creation for a company. NYU research into certain case studies shows a positive financial return on sustainability investments, with many long-term benefits.

Indeed, sustainability, or attention to ESG factors, is the way large corporations are creating value for the company, and therefore for all stakeholders including shareholders. A European Union directive now requires companies to provide non-financial (ESG) reporting to investors as well as financial reporting. Creating value for all stakeholders isn’t a foreign concept to European companies, whose cultural context has historically favored this idea.

Kudos to the Business Roundtable for bringing its statement on purpose into line with 21st century practices. The statement is a signpost that will most certainly make it easier for companies to implement purposeful strategies.

By: Maureen Kline

Source: Why the Debate Over Stakeholder Value Vs. Shareholder Value is All Wrong

Help us learn more about your experience by completing this short survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RRKS8LZ Subscribe to Alanis Business Academy on YouTube for updates on the latest videos: https://www.youtube.com/alanisbusines… An outline of the two perspectives related to corporate social responsibility: the shareholder model and the stakeholder model. The discussion also includes support for each perspective, including that of famous Nobel​ prize winning economist Milton Friedman.

What Can a Trader Do With Best Buy Stock?

Chutes Without Ladders

As toddlers, my sister and I used to play the famous board-game where depending on the spot where one lands, the individual either slides down a long chute, or climbs a ladder. I had intended to carry my long position in Best Buy (BBYGet Report) into the holiday season as far back as September. This was one of the first names that I got rid of in early October at an average price of $70 and change.

The broad market selloff that stated there has now surpassed the threshold of what many consider to be the definition of a Correction (-10% from the highs) was just getting in gear at that time. The retailers were making a lot of noise regarding trade with China, and this name was one of the first deck chairs thrown overboard for me as my ship started taking on water. I could have made a better sale a day of two prior, but then again, these shares never looked back once I made that sale either.

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The stock had been so badly beaten that recently I considered buying back what I had sold. As I usually do with the retailers, I visited my local Best Buy location before taking on some shares. I walked around the store, stopped over by the laptops pretending to need help. Nothing. Look around. Employees walk by. Maybe it’s just the department, so I walk over to household appliances. Same thing.

The employees did not seem interested in making a sale that day. I decided to walk out. I put my hands in my jacket pockets in a way that should have drawn interest from the security employee at the door. Again, nothing. Now it may just be my store, and it may have just been a bad day, but I decided not to buy any shares in the company that day. Lucky miss.

Will I Be Back?

To the store? Definitely. I have thought the employees energetic and helpful in the past. They’ll get another chance. The stock may have to prove itself, especially after Bank of America Merrill Lynch made their opinion known this morning. BAML cut it’s rating on BBY to “Underperform” from “Neutral”, so it’s not like they loved the chain to begin with. However, the firm dropped their price objective for BBY from $70 to $50.

Best Buy will report its Q4 results on February 19th. Industry consensus is for EPS of $2.57, which would be good for earnings growth of 6.2%. Revenue is expected to print somewhere around $14.7 billion, which will illustrate a contraction year over year for that line item.

The stock trades at just 9.8 times forward looking earnings, and given the general outlook for growth, is it possible that these earnings projections are just too high. If relations with China don’t come to an amicable resolution in the near future… perhaps. That’s the way BAML feels at least for the current quarter, but also makes a point of mentioning the full year.

The Catch

The analyst behind the BAML opinion is not highly rated by TipRanks, at least not yet. The last highly rated, high profile analyst that I see that still has a buy rating on BBY, and a much higher price target ($81) is Piper Jaffray’s Peter Keith. My belief would be that if Keith throws in the towel, that the marketplace will notice. Perhaps at that point I will initiate an entry level long but not without another visit to my local store.

Free Lunch?

So, what can a trader do, other than sit on their hands, and wait to see if another shoe drops? Right now, a trader might be able to sell one BBY $47.50 February 15th put at an implied value of $1.29, instead of taking down an equity stake. Hopefully, this trader pockets $129, and takes his or her significant other out for a nice meal.

The risk is that the shares trade below $47.50 by expiration, and the trader is forced to eat these shares at a net basis of $46.21. Note that expiration is four days ahead of this Q4 earnings release. At the time of publication, Stephen Guilfoyle had no position in the securities mentioned.

By:

Source: What Can a Trader Do With Best Buy Stock? – TheStreet

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The Exclusive Inside Story Of The Fall Of Overstock’s Mad King, Patrick Byrne

On Thursday, Patrick Byrne, the founder and longtime CEO of former e-tailing giant Overstock.com, resigned, saying his involvement as a federal informant in the investigation of accused Russian spy Maria Butina made performing his duties impossible. That’s not the whole story. This is.

Its early May and Patrick Byrne has just gotten off the phone with hip-hop artist Akon and is roaming barefoot in the elegant three-room suite on the top floor of the Jefferson hotel, a stone’s throw from Embassy Row in Washington, D.C. He grabs a Diet Coke, a pack of gummy bears and some M&Ms from a minibar hidden in a tasteful armoire, settles on a plush cream-colored sofa and begins to boast about the circumstances around which the Senegalese-American celebrity sought him out.

“I hear he’s a musician. We share ambitions for Africa,” says Byrne, popping a gummy bear into his mouth.Byrne, who bought Overstock.com in 1999 and ran it for two decades, has always been a man of many ambitions. High on his list: transforming the African continent and its 1.3 billion people via blockchain technology.

Like an infomercial for the nascent decentralized, distributed ledger technology that underlies cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, he waxes poetic about a future in which corruption is wiped out, people are freed from poverty and developing nations can leapfrog ahead by putting government functions like voting, property records and central banking on the blockchain. Characteristically low on his priority list: The economic interests of the thousands of shareholders in his publicly traded former e-tailing giant.

For the last several years, Byrne, 56, spent no fewer than 220 days a year on the road spreading his blockchain gospel, despite the fact that Overstock was hemorrhaging cash. “Over the next five years, we can change the world for 5 billion people,” says Byrne. “Well, at least a billion. Maybe 5 billion.”

Byrne is vague about why he is in the nation’s capital this week and mentions a meeting with representatives from Africa about his blockchain projects. However, he later reveals that he had been meeting with the Department of Justice. Byrne claims he’s been serving as a government informant, feeding information since 2015 to the “Men In Black,” as he puts it, on Maria Butina, a vivacious Russian grad student with whom he struck up a romantic relationship. She is currently serving an 18-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent, in connection with her efforts to infiltrate conservative political circles before and after the 2016 presidential election.

In his resignation letter, Byrne cited his involvement in “certain government matters” as complicating “all manner of business relationships from insurability to strategic discussions regarding our retail business.” Byrne says what he has done (exactly what that was remains unclear) “was necessary for the good of the country, for the good of the firm.” Byrne concludes his letter by stating cryptically:

“Coming forward publicly about my involvement in other matters was hardly my first choice. But for three years I have watched my country pull itself apart while I knew many answers, and I set my red line at seeing civil violence breaking out. My Rabbi made me see that ‘coming forward’ meant telling the public (not just the government) the truth. I now plan on leaving things to the esteemed Department of Justice (which I have doubtless already angered enough by going public) and disappearing for some time.”

In a call from his car minutes after delivering a farewell speech to his surprised employees, Byrne said he had his bags packed. “I will be sitting on a beach in South America shortly, and that is all I want to think about,” he says. “I want to focus on getting back into good shape, doing yoga and becoming a vegetarian.”

Welcome to Patrick Byrne’s bizarre world. The existential crisis Byrne is putting his Salt Lake City-based company through comes after an impressive career pioneering e-commerce. Nearly two decades ago, Byrne was lauded as “The Renaissance Man of E-Commerce.” The closeout store he took control of in 1999 for a mere $7 million was on its way to becoming an e-tailing phenom and eventually came to command a market capitalization of $2.2 billion. But in the hyper-competitive digital age, disruptive business models don’t last long, and today Overstock—once an innovator—is a has-been.

This isn’t any secret. By the time of his resignation, Byrne had all but given up trying to compete with the likes of Amazon and Wayfair, and he had spent the last two years unsuccessfully attempting to unload Overstock’s retail business. Just as e-commerce captivated Byrne at the turn of the millennium, blockchain was his shiny new obsession. So Byrne funneled Overstock’s dwindling resources into blockchain ventures—more than $200 million since 2014.

About 30% of that sum went into 18 early-stage companies that are building a suite of blockchain technology products he wanted to sell to governments. The rest has been seemingly squandered on a personal vendetta: Overstock is creating a blockchain version of Nasdaq, which Byrne believed could right some of the evils of Wall Street—particularly the naked short-selling that he claims plagued his company for much of the last 15 years. Byrne attracted an eclectic mix of allies to his corner doing what he calls “God’s work,” ranging from Akon and the World Bank to the infamous short-seller Marc Cohodes and the city of Denver.

But the walls closed in on Byrne’s quixotic adventure. Overstock’s heavily shorted stock plummeted from $87 in the beginning of 2018 to about $20 today as some $1.5 billion in market capitalization has evaporated. Once reliably profitable, Overstock lost $206 million last year and $110 million in 2017. In recent months, Byrne fired some 400 people.

Even worse were the cracks forming in Overstock’s new strategy. The company’s prized crypto offering, Tzero, is the subject of an SEC investigation, and a highly-anticipated private equity investment into the fledging exchange has withered away. Its blockchain investment arm, Medici Ventures, has yet to generate meaningful revenues and racked up losses of $61 million in 2018. With many big companies now embracing blockchain technology—including a bold new plan from Facebook—Byrne’s strategy shift to blockchain suddenly looks as challenging as Overstock’s online retailing business.

Eventually even Byrne’s most loyal shareholders—blockchain believers among them— were in open revolt. Fumed Byrne in May, after investors bombarded him with calls and emails when he sold 900,000 shares of stock, “Frankly, I had no idea that shareholders would demand explanations of why and how I might want to use my cash derived from my labor and my property to pursue my ends in life.”

Byrne is the son of the late John “Jack” Byrne, a University of Michigan-trained mathematician and renowned insurance executive credited with turning around Geico in the mid-1970s and persuading Warren Buffett to invest in the auto insurer. Geico would eventually become one of the biggest contributors to Berkshire Hathaway’s bottom line, and Buffett once described Byrne’s father as “the Babe Ruth of insurance.”

When Byrne was in middle school, he gravitated toward his father’s friends. Bethesda neighbor Gordon Macklin, the president of Nasdaq from 1975 to 1987 (and later the chairman of San Francisco investment bank Hambrecht & Quist), would drive Patrick to school regularly. Buffett was an occasional house guest, and Byrne’s parents would allow him to skip school to spend time with the investment maven.

Says Byrne, who now refers to the Omaha billionaire as his Rabbi, “My mom would get a case of Pepsi, and Buffett, who is a teetotaler, always carried a hip flask of cherry syrup like a drunk. We’d sit there and over an afternoon polish off 18 Pepsis.”

Byrne’s father later went on to turn around American Express’s Fireman’s Fund and eventually created his own insurance holding company, called White Mountains Insurance. His stake, worth hundreds of millions at his retirement in 2007, formed the basis of the family’s wealth.

Patrick was the youngest and most precocious of Jack’s three sons. In 1981, he headed to Dartmouth to study philosophy and Asian studies. Shortly after his graduation, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. After treatment, he celebrated with a cross-country bicycle ride with his two older brothers. The cancer would come back two more times in quick succession and keep him in the hospital for much of his 20s. To keep his mind occupied while he was bedridden, he began pursuing a graduate degree in mathematical logic from Stanford. In 1988 he headed to Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar and eventually received his philosophy doctorate from Stanford.

Byrne speaks Mandarin and several other languages and once translated Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching (The Way Of Virtue) into English. “I was one of those guys who actually studied philosophy because I was trying to figure out man’s place in the universe,” says Byrne, whose dissertation explored the virtues of limited government and drew from libertarian Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia.

Despite his years in academia, Byrne pivoted hard to the pursuit of wealth in the late 1980s. “I had grown up in a very business-oriented household … I never anticipated staying in a university setting,” he says. In 1987 he bought a bankrupt hotel with his older brother called the Inn at Jackson Hole for about a million dollars, which they sold several years later for $4 million. In 1989, they started buying distressed consumer debt at 5 cents on the dollar during the S&L crisis.

In the early 1990s, Byrne led a $1 million investment into the development of the Red Dolly Casino in Colorado, which was later sold for $5 million. He also invested in distressed strip malls, office space and apartment buildings across the country. His dad often loaned his sons money and in later years put up mezzanine capital, collecting a preferred, 15% return and half as much equity.

Nothing kept Byrne’s attention very long. In 1994, he led an investment into Centricut, a New Hampshire-based industrial torch-part manufacturer, and served briefly as CEO when the current management fell ill. In 1997, he left to run Berkshire Hathaway’s Fechheimer Brothers, which made uniforms for police, firemen and military. In 1999, seeing an opportunity to sell leftover inventory online, his investment holding company, High Plains Investments LLC, acquired a majority stake in D2-Discounts Direct for $7 million. He renamed it Overstock, and when 55 venture capitalists declined to fund the company’s growth, he turned to friends, family and his own checkbook.

His timing was perfect. The company began scooping up inventory from bankrupt dot-coms, whether it was consumer electronics, jewelry or sporting goods, then selling it on the cheap. In 2002, Overstock’s revenue hit $92 million and Byrne took the company public via a Dutch auction, which allows investors (not bankers) to set prices for the stock offering themselves. (Google went public the same way.)

By 2005, the company’s stock, which had skyrocketed post-IPO, began to slide as its losses widened. Byrne became convinced it was because of naked short-selling, an illegal practice in which investors sell shares in a company without actually borrowing the shares, typically using leverage. In a now-infamous August 2005 conference call, he ranted about how hedge funds, journalists and regulators were conspiring to push down the company’s stock price under the direction of some faceless menace he called the “Sith Lord.”

Overstock sued short-selling hedge fund Rocker Partners and research firm Gradient Analytics, which had been critical of the company. Then, in 2007, he filed a $3.5 billion lawsuit against 11 of the biggest banks on Wall Street (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse among them), accusing them of participating in a “massive, illegal stock market manipulation scheme” that distorted the company’s stock price by facilitating naked short-selling.

The crusade cost him two directors, plus the confidence of his father, who threatened to step down from the board because he believed his son was distracted from Overstock’s core business. The litigation dragged on for over a decade and resulted in a handful of settlements, including a $20 million payment from Merrill Lynch in 2016. “I think he won the battle but lost the war when it came to naked short-selling,” says Tom Forte, long the lone analyst covering the stock.

In the years Byrne spent chasing short-sellers, Overstock’s stock sagged and revenue drifted slowly upward, hitting $830 million in 2008, $1.3 billion in 2013 and $1.8 billion in 2018. And while the company never racked up massive losses like Amazon or Wayfair, as Byrne likes to point out, its profitability has been modest. Overstock broke into the black in 2009, then eked out small profits for the next seven out of eight years.

In 2017 and 2018, as Byrne shifted his attention to expanding in crypto and blockchain, the company began bleeding red ink—a whopping $316 million over two years, which is more than twice the profits Overstock has ever delivered. Byrne chalked his market share declines up to competitors with seemingly endless piles of cash to blow through.

“The thing I never anticipated … was that I would be in an industry that tolerated people losing $500 million, $1 billion or $3 billion forever. We started drawing copycats who came in and seemed to have unlimited capital,” he says, not hiding his disdain for and jealousy of Wayfair.

However, former employees say Byrne was distracted by his short-selling crusade and failed to take competitors seriously. Internally Byrne’s ADD management style—enthusiastically starting up new projects but then losing interest—was jokingly referred to as the Overstock “ovolution.” In 2004, the company spent a couple of million to develop an online auction platform akin to eBay, but it struggled to turn a profit and was shut down in 2011.

(Byrne later said he wished he hadn’t abandoned it.) In 2014, Overstock invested $400,000 to facilitate pet adoptions by working with shelters, which it still runs but describes as a “public service.” The company started selling home, auto and small business insurance in 2014, too, which Byrne described as “a long-term play” before trashing it as not doing “particularly well” three months later.

“Patrick gets very focused on something, and then when he sees the financials didn’t work out, he basically forces layoffs,” says Chad Huff, a former software developer. “Initiatives would get started, then shelved. Or they’d be half done and not in a great state but rolled out anyway.”

Acouple of months before his resignation, as sheets of rain blanket Overstock’s new headquarters at the base of Utah’s Wasatch Mountains—a building designed to resemble a peace sign when viewed from above—Byrne has finished sitting through a scheduled business luncheon and gone missing.

Several minutes later, after his assistant tracks him down, he glides into his office, where posters of Bob Marley and Pulp Fiction give it a dorm-room feel. He sits down and begins ruminating on his two decades running Overstock. “It’s kind of imagination land,” says Byrne, dressed in a black long-sleeve T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes.

Strangely, Byrne’s Overstock was long immune from activist shareholder campaigns and boardroom coups and what ultimately prompted his sudden departure is still murky. Investors like Marc Cohodes had called for Byrne to step aside as CEO and move into a chairman position. Despite recent stock sales, Byrne remains the company’s largest shareholder, with a 14% stake and says he wasn’t pushed out. “This is not about pressure from shareholders. The only pressure—or actual issue— was that the insurance companies were having conniptions,” he says.

Byrne began chasing crypto in late 2013 when he asked dozens of staffers to work over the holiday break to fast-track a bitcoin payment feature. The price of bitcoin had skyrocketed that year from about $13 to more than $1,000, and in January 2014, Overstock became the first major retailer to accept bitcoin as payment.

Before long, Byrne began tapping Overstock’s balance sheet to fund bigger and bigger blockchain initiatives. The crown jewel: a digital stock exchange called Tzero, which is seeking to allow investors to trade so-called security tokens that represent traditional securities, like stocks, bonds, real estate, private equity and art on the blockchain. Proponents say this will improve access and liquidity for certain investments, plus cut down settlement times for stocks and bonds from up to two days to mere seconds. A bonus: The system would make naked short-selling impossible because there is no longer a lag time between a buy and sell order.

On the plus side, Tzero has satisfied a set of fearsome regulatory requirements, most notably acquiring a company licensed as an alternative trading system. The problem is, with just two tokens—representing Overstock’s and Tzero’s own shares—available to trade on Tzero’s platform, almost no one uses it. The company says it is aiming for 5 to 10 tokens by the end of the year.

In May, it announced partnerships with Saudi real estate giant Emaar Properties, to list $2 billion in real estate, and Securitize, a startup that packages regular assets into digital tokens that can be traded on the blockchain. While it hopes to generate revenues from listing fees, trading commissions, interest on lending assets and more, it first needs to create liquidity by attracting quality issuers and investors to its platform.

Byrne was also developing a securities lending platform as part of Tzero, which would connect asset-rich institutional investors like pension funds (who make money by lending their stock) directly with short-sellers (who borrow stock to make trades). Both parties stand to benefit from lower fees, plus will receive a blockchain-enabled digital locate receipt that proves the shares have actually changed hands.

The service takes dead aim at banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which currently sit in the middle of these transactions. It’s been tried before: A company called Quadriserv created a similar stock lending platform named AQS in 2006, but alleged in a recent lawsuit that banks conspired to “boycott AQS and starve it of liquidity.” In 2016, AQS was sold in a fire sale for $4 million.

“It’s the last great business on Wall Street,” says Byrne. “Pension funds are going to understand they have been deprived of tens of billions of earnings a year. That money is turning into Maybachs in the Hamptons.”

At the company’s annual shareholder meeting in May, Byrne fielded tough questions from investors. While the price of bitcoin had climbed some 60% in the last five months, Overstock’s shares continued to slide. And after months of delays, Overstock just dropped a bombshell: Tzero would receive a measly $5 million in the form of Chinese renminbi, U.S. dollars and other Hong Kong-traded securities from Asian investment firm GSR Capital, after the company originally touted a deal size of as much as $404 million.

Over time Byrne developed a dilettante’s reputation for overpromising and underdelivering. In 2016 Byrne boldly told investors that Overstock would be issuing the world’s first equity security using the blockchain. “The history of capital markets is entering a new era,” he said. Byrne personally ended up buying 50% of the $2 million preferred stock offering.

In 2017, Byrne announced a joint venture with Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto Polar that would “challenge global poverty and inequality” by creating a blockchain-based global land registry. But when the two couldn’t agree on terms, Byrne ended up contributing $7 million of his personal capital to take a 43% stake in the newly formed Medici Land Governance.

Overstock began exploring a sale of its retailing business in 2017, but to date no buyers have materialized. There was also Tzero’s troubled “initial coin offering,” which set out to raise $250 million but, ultimately as crypto prices were dropping, generated $105 million in August 2018 at an expense of $21.5 million to corporate parent Overstock. The offering is now being investigated by the SEC as part of a broader ICO crackdown.

Many investors grew tired of Byrne’s promises. “Basically, every initiative they put forward, they promised or signaled to the market that this is an incredible layup and they will get it done in three to six months,” says Kevin Mak, a lecturer at Stanford Business School who invested in the company in 2017 and sold his shares last fall. “I ultimately exited when I found that the information I was getting from management was no longer—I want to pick the right words—reliable.”

In the end, Byrne was forced to spend a considerable amount of time hunting for fresh funds to keep his dream alive. In November 2017, Overstock borrowed $40 million from his mother (trusts in her name own 5% of the company) and brother at an interest rate of 8%.

Over the next few months, during the height of crypto-mania, the company received $150 million from two investors, including George Soros, after they exercised warrants in exchange for stock (the investors have since dumped their shares). In August and September 2018, the company raised another $95 million by issuing new shares of common stock in an “at the market” offering.

The problem is, unlike most companies that buy back shares as prices decline, Overstock is selling, diluting the company’s equity. Shares outstanding have climbed to 35 million from 25 million in the last two years. In the first quarter of 2019 Overstock committed to another quick stock sale, raising $31 million to partially offset a $51 million cash burn.

Meanwhile, Overstock’s original business is running on fumes. “It was kind of a fight to run retail because it was never his priority,” says Stormy Simon, former president of the operation who left in 2016. Since then, there have been several rounds of layoffs in the retail business, leaving a raft of empty desks in Overstock’s new $100 million headquarters.

And yet, to his blockchain staffers, Byrne was like Daddy Warbucks. Tzero CEO Saum Noursalehi was paid $4.8 million last year, while his brother and Tzero vice president Nariman earned $1 million. Tzero chief technology officer Amit Goyal made $1.8 million—and his brother Sumit earned an additional $765,000.

In Overstock’s recent quarterly filings, it indicates that it should be able to fund its current obligations for another 12 months, but after that, additional capital may be needed “to be able to fully pursue some or all of our strategies.” The ominous disclosure seems to have had little effect on Overstock’s languishing shares, because by now many investors have given up on the company.

Byrne never showed much respect for Wall Street or small-minded shareholders—and maybe that’s what got him in the end. “We’re like a Russian icebreaker trolling across the Arctic ice field. It’s three or four yards at a time and enormously expensive,” says Byrne. “When you’re talking about the kinds of numbers we’re talking about and freeing up trillions of capital … I think there is going to be so much money in it it’s kind of silly to try and model it.”

Photograph by Tim Pannell for Forbes

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I am a staff writer at Forbes covering retail. I’m particularly interested in entrepreneurs who are finding success in a tough and changing landscape. I have been at Forbes since 2013, first on the markets and investing team and most recently on the billionaires team. In the course of my reporting, I have interviewed the father of Indian gambling, the first female billionaire to enter the space race and the immigrant founder of one of the nation’s most secretive financial upstarts. My work has also appeared in Money Magazine and CNNMoney.com. Tips or story ideas? Email me at ldebter@forbes.com.

Source: The Exclusive Inside Story Of The Fall Of Overstock’s Mad King, Patrick Byrne

 

General Electric Rebounds as CEO Culp Buys $2M in Shares Following Fraud Claim

General Electric (GEGet Report)  rose Friday after CEO Larry Culp purchased $2 million worth of shares in the company following reports that its accounting tactics were targeted by the whistleblower who helped bring down Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

Securities and Exchange Commission filings from late Thursday indicate Culp purchased 252,000 GE shares at $7.93 each Thursday as the stock plunged following a Wall Street Journal report that outlined allegations from Harry Markopolos, an accounting expert who flagged issues surrounding Bernie Madoff’s investment fraud.

Markopolos called GE a “bankruptcy waiting to happen” and said he found that its insurance unit would need an $18.5 billion boost to its reserves. He also told that paper that other accounting issues, including in its oil and gas business, would amount to around $38 billion.

Markopolos is working with an undisclosed hedge fund that has an ongoing short position in GE shares, meaning they’re betting against them in the near and long term.

“GE will always take any allegation of financial misconduct seriously. But this is market manipulation — pure and simple,” Culp said in a statement Thursday. “Mr. Markopolos’s report contains false statements of fact and these claims could have been corrected if he had checked them with GE before publishing the report.”

GE shares rose 9.7% on Friday to close at $8.79 following Thursday’s 11.3% plunge (the biggest in more than 11 years).

GE’s power division raised concerns last year when the company said a $22 billion charge related to acquisitions that it booked over the three months ending in October 2018 was being probed by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice.

“GE stands behind its financials. We operate to the highest-level of integrity in our financial reporting and we have clearly laid out our financial obligations in great detail,” the company said in a statement to TheStreet. “We remain focused on running our business every day and following the strategic path we have laid out.”

“We will not be distracted by this type of meritless, misguided and self-serving speculation and neither should anyone in the investor community,” the statement added.

By:

Source: General Electric Rebounds as CEO Culp Buys $2M in Shares Following Fraud Claim – TheStreet

Shares of General Electric fell in the pre-market Thursday after Madoff whistleblower Harry Markopolos released a report alleging that GE has masked the depths of its financial problems, resulting in inaccurate and what he’s calling fraudulent financial filings with regulators. GE responded by saying it hasn’t been contacted by Markopolos and the group’s report was produced to help short sellers profit by creating volatility in GE’s shares. CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” discuss.

Deere Misses Q3 Earnings Estimate as Trade Uncertainty Clouds Agricultural Unit

Deere  (DEGet Report) posted weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings Friday and lowered its full-year sales and profit forecast as trade uncertainty surrounding the agricultural sector continues to hurt the farm equipment maker’s bottom line.

Deere said earnings for the three months ended on July 28, the company’s fiscal third quarter, came in at $2.71 a share, up 4.6% from the same period last year but 13 cents shy of the Wall Street consensus forecast. Group revenue, Deere said, fell 3% from last year to $10.03 billion and topped analysts’ forecasts of a $9.38 billion tally.

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Looking into 2019, Deere said it sees full-year equipment sales rising by 4%, down from a prior forecast of around 5%, while net income is forecast to come in at $3.2 billion, down from the company’s earlier guidance of $3.3 billion.

“John Deere’s third-quarter results reflected the high degree of uncertainty that continues to overshadow the agricultural sector,” said CEO Sam Allen. “Concerns about export-market access, near-term demand for commodities such as soybeans, and overall crop conditions, have caused many farmers to postpone major equipment purchases.”

“At the same time, general economic conditions remain positive and are contributing to strong results for Deere’s construction and forestry business,” he added.

Deere shares were up 3.17% to $148.26 in trading Friday.

“In spite of present challenges, the long-term outlook for our businesses remains healthy and points to a promising future,” Allen said. “We continue to expand our global customer base and are encouraged by response to our lineup of advanced products and services.”

“Furthermore, we are fully committed to the successful execution of our strategic plan focused on achieving sustainable profitable growth,” he said. “In support of the strategy, we are conducting a thorough assessment of our cost structure and initiating a series of actions to make the organization more structurally efficient and profitable.”

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Source: Deere Misses Q3 Earnings Estimate as Trade Uncertainty Clouds Agricultural Unit

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KeyCorp Shares Slide After Revealing Fraudulent Q3 Activity

KeyCorp (KEYGet Report)  shares traded lower Tuesday after the lender uncovered fraudulent activity associated within one of its business customers in its current quarter.

KeyCorp revealed that it is investigating the activity, which it believes was associated with one particular business customer of KeyBank National Association.

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The bank holding company has launched an internal investigation into the matter to determine its exposure, which it currently estimates at $90 million. The Cleveland, Ohio-based bank said there could be an additional impact on its third-quarter earnings. Executives are working with law enforcement to determine additional details.

Shares of KeyCorp were down 1.14% at $17.38 in early trading Tuesday. The shares are down approximately 17% year-to-date.

U.S. banks began rolling out their quarterly earnings numbers this week, starting with Citigroup (CGet Report) , which Monday said that second-quarter profit rose 6.6% to $4.8 billion. JPMorgan (JPMGet Report) and Goldman Sachs (GSGet Report) both posted better-than-expected results on Tuesday before the market open.

Wall Street analysts have warned that U.S. banks could face a squeeze on their lending profits as the Federal Reserve moves toward a likely interest-rate cut later in July.

JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs are holdings in Jim Cramer’s Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells the stocks? Learn more now.

JPM, WFC, GS Earnings: The Economy Is Strong, But There’s a Caveat

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Source: KeyCorp Shares Slide After Revealing Fraudulent Q3 Activity – TheStreet

Stocks Making The Biggest Moves After Hours: Cisco NetApp and Vipshop

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Cisco fell nearly 8% in after-hours trading after announcing better than expected fourth-quarter earnings and weaker-than-expected guidance. The enterprise technology company reported adjusted fourth-quarter earnings per share of 83 cents on revenue of $13.43 billion. Analysts had expected adjusted earnings per share of 82 cents on revenue of $13.38 billion, according to Refinitiv.

For the first quarter, Cisco said it anticipates adjusted earnings per share between 80 cents and 82 cents. The company said it expects flat to 2% revenue growth. Those figures are below analyst projections for earnings of 83 cents per share and revenue growth of 2.5%, according to Refinitiv consensus estimates.

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said the company’s business in China dropped 25% amid the U.S.-China trade war and early signs of macro shifts that didn’t occur in the previous quarter.

Shares of NetApp jumped nearly 4% after the data services and management company reported promising first-quarter earnings. The company reported adjusted earnings per share of 65 cents on revenue of $1.24 billion. Analysts had expected earnings per share of 58 cents on revenue of $1.23 billion, according to Refinitiv. NetApp CEO George Kurian said gross margin and cost structure improvements will help the company “navigate the ongoing macroeconomic headwinds”

Vipshop soared 8% after announcing higher-than-expected earnings for the second quarter. The Guangzhou, China-based company reported adjusted second-quarter earnings per share of $1.58 yuan on revenue of $22.74 billion yuan. Analysts had expected earnings per share of $1.01 yuan on revenue of $21.52 billion yuan, according to Refinitiv. Eric Shen, chairman and chief executive officer of Vipshop, cited the company’s growing numbers of active users and acquisition of Shanshan Outlets.

Pivotal Software shares skyrocketed nearly 70% in extended trading after VMware said it will acquire all outstanding Class A shares at $15 in cash. That price represents an 80% premium on  Pivotal’s closing price of $8.30 per share.

By : Elizabeth Myong

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/

 

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