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Cisco, Tilray, Aurora Cannabis, Alibaba, Trade Talks – 5 Things You Must Know

Here are five things you must know for Wednesday, May 15:

1. — Stock Futures Lower Amid Subsiding Trade War Worries

U.S. stock futures were lower Wednesday though sentiment was lifted by a softening of the rhetoric from Donald Trump in the U.S.-China trade war and suggestions that talks could resume in the coming weeks.

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Markets also were soothed by weaker-than-expected economic data from China that pointed to not only slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy but also a weakening bargaining position in Beijing’s trade standoff with Washington.

With Trumps describing the dispute with China as “a little squabble” on Tuesday, as well as confirmation from the U.S. Treasury that Secretary Steven Mnuchin will soon travel to Beijing to resume trade talks, markets were happy to add risk following Tuesday’s gains on Wall Street.

Contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 85 points, futures for the S&P 500 declined 8.70 points, and Nasdaq futures were down 23 points.

The economic calendar in the U.S. Wednesday includes Retail Sales for April at 8:30 a.m. ET, the Empire State Manufacturing Survey for May at 8:30 a.m., Industrial Production for April at 9:15 a.m., and Oil Inventories for the week ended May 10 at 10:30 a.m.

2. — Cisco, Alibaba and Macy’s Report Earnings Wednesday

Alibaba Group Holding (BABAGet Report)  posted stronger-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter earnings as consumer growth on its online marketplace surged and its tie-up with Starbucks (SBUXGet Report) , the world’s biggest coffee chain, helped boost revenue and its cloud computing sales surged.

Macy’s (MGet Report)  earned 44 cents a share on an adjusted basis in the first quarter, higher than estimates of 33 cents. Same-store sales rose 0.7% in the quarter vs. estimates that called for a decline of 0.6%.

Earnings reports are also expected Wednesday from Cisco Systems (CSCOGet Report) and Jack in the Box (JACKGet Report) .

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3. — Tilray Rises After Revenue Beat, Aurora Cannabis Slumps

Tilray  (TLRY) shares were rising 4% to $50.71 in premarket trading Wednesday after the Canadian cannabis company posted stronger-than-expected first-quarter sales, while its domestic rival Aurora Cannabis (ACBGet Report) slumped after revenue missed analysts’ forecasts amid caps on retail store growth in the Canadian market.

Tilray said first-quarter revenue rose 195% from a year earlier to $23 million, as sales in Canada surged following the country’s decision to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The adjusted loss in the quarter was 27 cents a share, wider than analysts’ estimates, after a 5.7% drop in the average price per kilogram sold.

CEO Brendan Kennedy also said Tilray was looking to further its partnerships with U.S. and international companies as the potential $150 billion global market for cannabis undergoes a generational change in both regulation and consumer acceptance.

“We’ve been inundated with contacts from Fortune 500 companies who are interested in exploring partnerships with Tilray,” Kennedy told investors on a conference call late Tuesday. “And it’s a range of companies from a broad variety of industries.”

“We’re also starting to have conversations with U.S. retailers who are interested in carrying CBD product in the second half of this year,” he added.

Aurora Cannabis, meanwhile, was tumbling 4.7% to $7.99 in premarket trading after its fiscal third-quarter revenue of C$75.2 million missed Wall Street forecasts of C$77.2 million and consumer cannabis sales were just under C$30 million as provincial regulators limited the number of retail outlets.

The company reported a loss attributable to shareholders in the quarter of $C158 million said Aurora Cannabis said it was “well positioned to achieve positive EBITDA beginning in fiscal Q4.”

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4. — Walmart Considering IPO for U.K. Unit Asda

Walmart (WMTGet Report) is considering an initial public offering for its U.K. grocery subsidiary Asda, a listing that that could value the company at as much as an estimated 8.5 billion pounds ($11 billion), Bloomberg reported.

The news comes just weeks after U.K. antitrust regulators blocked a planned merger between Asda, Britain’s fourth-largest supermarket, and rival J Sainsbury.

“While we are not rushing into anything, I want you to know that we are seriously considering a path to an IPO,” Judith McKenna, the company’s international chief, told employees at an event in Leeds, according to a summary of the event provided by Asda. Any preparations for going public would “take years,” she said, Bloomberg reported.

5. — Nelson Peltz’s Trian May Wage Activist Campaign at Legg Mason – Report

Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management may wage an activist campaign at Legg Mason (LMGet Report) and push the mutual fund company to improve its flagging results, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

It would be the second time in 10 years that Trian has targeted the mutual fund company, according to Reuters.

Trian recently has held discussions with Legg Mason about the need to cut costs and improve profit margins, the people told the Journal. The two sides may still negotiate a settlement that sidesteps a proxy fight, the sources added.

On a conference call with analysts Monday, Legg Mason CEO Joseph Sullivan said the company was moving to slash expenses.

“While there is much work to be done, we now have increased visibility into and have gained even greater confidence in our ability to deliver $100 million or more of annual savings now within two years,” he said.

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Source: Cisco, Tilray, Aurora Cannabis, Alibaba, Trade Talks – 5 Things You Must Know

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Rakuten Taps Chinese Blockchain Firm for $60 Billion Authenticity Market

In 2008, at least 54,000 Chinese babies suffered after ingesting formula that had been contaminated. Demand for safe products has grown year over year, every year, since then. Companies like blockchain-centric Techrock have capitalized on this market by finding unique solutions to the authenticity problem. Techrock uses the blockchain to track every step of a product’s lifecycle and rewards consumers for verifying it through their mobile phones.

Chinese Consumers Increasingly Willing to Pay a Premium for Authentic Imported Food

In China, it is reportedly difficult to get authentic products. Some researchers have found that more than 90% of the food sold in China is faked in one way or another.

For non-food products, this isn’t such a big deal; but there are some markets where it’s life and death – such as baby formula and other food products, which can have deadly side effects. According to Techrock, which spoke to CCN about their recent partnership with Rakuten, the situation has created a market for authentic goods as large as $60 billion per year.

Techrock uses blockchain technology in two aspects of its business. On the one hand, it offers a loyalty program for customers who use the service to purchase authentic products. On the other, it creates a permanent record of a product’s authenticity.

From Supply Chain to Reward Points, Blockchain’s Role

Every product in Techrock’s store has a digital representation on the blockchain. The company has developed a reputation for delivering high-quality, authentic goods, and it’s applying the same process to its Rakuten “zone.”

Their target market is less about authentic shoes or electronics and more about health supplements and other things which people prefer not to risk. The loyalty program helps them retain customers, and using the blockchain for it, the points have no expiration date. A side effect of Techrock’s Tael loyalty program is that it introduces many people to blockchain for the first time.

Techrock recently entered a partnership with Japanese retail giant Rakuten to get authentic Japanese goods to customers. Rakuten has long had an interest in blockchain companies, but it only touches the technology in a tertiary way here.

Rakuten is looking to expand its reach in China, where it is far from the leading retailer. By contrast, Alibaba is the boss in China – but Alibaba’s eBay-style product suffers a lot of knock-off problems that the rest of the Chinese market does.

Growing Year-Over-Year

Built on Hyperledger, Techrock’s labeling technology ensures that products are real. The customer can verify this with an app on their phone, and once they do so, they earn their reward points at the same time. The rewards can be used to purchase more goods in the store, which encourages customers to keep using Techrock.

Techrock’s partnership with Rakuten means that Chinese customers don’t have to worry about fakes, and they have streamlined access to authentic, safe products. Techrock Co-Founder Alexander Busarov told CCN:

“We already sell in over 220 or 230 cities where our consumers are located. It’s all sent by the local dealer companies. We think our business will grow as the demand grows.”

China is reportedly the largest market for both food and firms that verify the safety of food. Consumers have been driven online as they continually lose trust in local vendors. Regulations and other issues make it such that local companies, like Techrock, will ultimately supply the demand.

Techrock’s partnership with Rakuten is notable because they’re the third to secure such a partnership – JD.com being one of the first – and they are built entirely on blockchain.

Source: Rakuten Taps Chinese Blockchain Firm for $60 Billion Authenticity Market

Progress Ahead? Hopes For China Trade Progress Rise, Putting Markets On Solid Footing

A long weekend looms, but before that, there’s a lot to digest. Perhaps topping the list is the latest scuttlebutt around trade with China (see more below). Netflix earnings also rank high, with shares down 3% in pre-market trading after a Q4 revenue miss. Automaker Tesla is also in the news after announcing plans to shrink its workforce as it tries to lower product prices and improve its margins………

Source: Progress Ahead? Hopes For China Trade Progress Rise, Putting Markets On Solid Footing

US Stocks Rise on Positive Trade Talks with China; Bitcoin Cautious

The US stocks opened Wednesday on a higher note as President Donald Trump signaled positive outcomes of their trade talks with China. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 0.5 percent to 23902 points after adding 115 points while the S&P 500 gained 0.3 percent. The Nasdaq Composite Index surged by 43.2 – or 0.6 percent – to 6941. The jump marked the market’s fourth consecutive upside session – the first time since Sep 14 – correcting 9% from its Dec 24 lows. However, the market remained 11% down from its 2017 peak.

Source: US Stocks Rise on Positive Trade Talks with China; Bitcoin Cautious

Bitcoin and Crypto Markets Form Fresh Trading Ranges Following Recent Plunge | NewsBTC

Following the cryptocurrency market’s recent plunge that occurred when Bitcoin failed to stabilize above the $4,000 price level, the crypto markets have seen further instability, with many altcoins continuing to drop today. Now, the markets, and Bitcoin in particular, appear to be forming fresh trading ranges that could be highly profitable for risk tolerant traders who play them correctly.

Source: Bitcoin and Crypto Markets Form Fresh Trading Ranges Following Recent Plunge | NewsBTC

How Chinese Products Went From Cheap & Cheerful To Weapons In US Trade War

Tensions are escalating between China and the US over trade. The Chinese government has announced retaliatory measures on a range of American products including cars and some American agriculture products after the US listed 1,333 Chinese products to be hit by punitive tariffs of 25%.

Yet a trade war does not make economic sense for either side. Bilateral trade between the US and China was worth about US$711 billion in 2017 and Boeing’s single deal with China signed during Donald Trump’s visit to Beijing in 2016 was worth about US$37 billion alone.

The jobs and livelihoods at risk are huge. So why is there no particular desire, especially from Trump, to ease the tension and find a new solution?

There has been much talk about the US trade deficit with China and allegations that China steals US intellectual property. But the answer could lie in US fears of the Chinese government’s “Made in China 2025” initiative and how it signals the growing threat of China as an economic rival. That the official US Trade Representative’s recent investigation into Chinese trade practices mentioned the Made in China 2025 initiative more than 100 times, suggests this is the case.

Image problems

Made in China 2025 was launched by the Chinese government in 2015 to upgrade the country’s manufacturing capabilities. It is a plan to transform what China produces from a low-cost, labour-intensive model to advanced and smart manufacturing. Certain key industries such as aerospace, robotics and high-tech medical equipment have been prioritised. The hope is that China will gradually match developed countries’ manufacturing capabilities and become industry leaders.

A lot of the products from these key industries, such as industrial robots, aviation and aerospace equipment, new energy and power supplies and advanced rail machinery were all included in the tariff target list published by the US Trade Representative. So it would seem that the current situation is not simply a trade issue aimed to reduce America’s trade deficit with China. Instead, it is likely targeted at the future competition China will pose.

Made in China 2.0. shutterstock.com

China’s Made in China 2025 strategy makes perfect sense in my field of research, which concerns where products are manufactured and how this effects their popularity in the global market place. A strong and positive image of a country can generate what economists call “halo effects” on its products. So, Germans have built good reputations for their cars and engineering, France and Italy for their wine and fashion, and the US for their innovative products.

This worldwide reputation brings with it prestige and higher price premiums. Although there is still debate around whether brand origin could be more important than where the product is produced (Apple, for example designs its products in the US but manufactures them in China), there is no doubt that “Made in China” suffers from an image problem.

Chinese products have long been associated with a cheap and cheerful perception that they are not good in terms of quality or ingenuity. The Chinese government has long been aware of this view and keen to change it.

At the turn of the 21st century, it set up a policy called “Going Out” to encourage leading Chinese firms to expand internationally, acquire new technology and the tools to innovate. The two big examples were IT firm Lenovo’s takeover of IBM’s personal computer division in 2005 and Geely automotive’s purchase of Volvo in 2010. Made in China 2025 serves the same purpose – to boost China’s technology and innovation capabilities and to improve the image of Chinese products.

Impressive growth

There is no doubt that China has come a long way since the 1990s. It has built 22,000km of advanced high speed rail network within the last decade, which is more than the rest of the world combined. It is also considered as the global leader in renewable energy and technology, patent filings, commercial drones, industrial robotics and e-commerce and mobile payments.

China is already a leader in some tech. shutterstock.com

Chinese telecommunications company Huawei typifies the transformation of Chinese products in recent years. Within the last decade, Huawei has surpassed Ericsson and Nokia to become the world’s biggest telecom equipment supplier and has just overtaken Apple as the world’s second largest smartphone maker, behind Samsung.

What’s more remarkable about these statistics is that Huawei has transformed itself from a cheap phone maker to an accepted premium brand that can compete with Apple and Samsung. Its latest releases the top of the range Huawei P20 Pro will retail for US$1,100 and its top end model Huawei Porsche Design Mate RS will sell for US$2,109 – even more than the iPhone X.

There is no doubt that some in the US are uncomfortable with China’s impressive growth and feel threatened by it. It suggests the current trade dispute is not just about imports and exports, but also an incumbent superpower feeling the threat of a growing challenger.

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