Topline: The once high-flying FAANG stocks—Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google parent Alphabet—have mostly lagged the broader S&P 500 index over the past year, signaling that the market may turn to new leadership for the next leg of its advance.
With the recent exception of Apple—which reached a new record high last week, the FAANGs have been in somewhat of a slump, as high price volatility takes a toll on their long-time status as momentum stocks.
Amazon and Facebook are both 13% off their record highs, while Netflix is down 31% from its peak last year; Google, on the other hand, is just 4% from its record high.
These popular, high-profile names have driven the bull market to new heights in recent years, and as a result were increasingly treated as parts of a whole when it came to trading patterns.
But over the last 6 to 12 months, the FAANGs have not been leading the market as they once did, with Wall Street now pricing in slower growth rates, rising costs and the potential for more government oversight.
“These stocks have made people a lot of money, but they won’t trade as a group the way they did for several years,” says Charles Lemonides, chief investment officer of ValueWorks LLC.
Lemonides predicts that Wall Street will increasingly stop talking about the FAANGs as a group, as they go from being growth stocks absolutely adored by the investing public to companies that are perceived to have their own different business challenges.
Key background: Analyst recommendations are increasingly varied on each of the FAANGs, which adds to the notion that they aren’t viewed as a group anymore. Most Wall Street analysts still assign “buy” ratings, though: 52% for Apple, 87.5% for Alphabet, 69% for Netflix, 96% for Amazon and 87% for Facebook, according to Bloomberg data.
I am a New York—based reporter for Forbes, covering breaking news—with a focus on financial topics. Previously, I’ve reported at Money Magazine, The Villager NYC, and The East Hampton Star. I graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2018, majoring in International Relations and Modern History. Follow me on Twitter @skleb1234 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Topline: The stock market was off to a rough start on Tuesday, and although it rebounded slightly in the afternoon, rising uncertainty over trade talks with China—set to start Thursday—took a huge toll and prompted a further sell-off.
With fading optimism around U.S.-China trade negotiations, the S&P 500 dropped 1.56%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 1.19%.
The CBOE Volatility Index spiked 9.5% following Tuesday’s reports that both sides were ramping up trade tensions.
Every sector of the market was in the red, with all but 2 out of 11 sectors falling by more than 1%.
Here are all the latest trade developments roiling the markets:
Just days before trade talks were scheduled to resume, the Trump administration again escalated tensions on Monday, moving to blacklist eight more Chinese technology companies and reportedly discussing limits on pension investments in Chinese stocks.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Tuesday said to “stay tuned” for China’s retaliation, followed by the Ministry of Commerce saying it “strongly urges” the U.S. to remove sanctions and stop accusing China of human rights violations.
The South China Morning Post also reported that the Chinese delegation is toning down expectations and already planning to cut short its stay in Washington.
Later on Tuesday, the Trump administration reportedly implemented new visa restrictions on a slew of Chinese officials over alleged abuses of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.
What to watch for: The all-important trade talks on Thursday and Friday. If no progress is made, the U.S. will go ahead with its planned tariff hike on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods, from 25% to 30%, on October 15.
I am a New York—based reporter for Forbes, covering breaking news—with a focus on financial topics. Previously, I’ve reported at Money Magazine, The Villager NYC, and The East Hampton Star. I graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2018, majoring in International Relations and Modern History. Follow me on Twitter @skleb1234 or email me at email@example.com
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Orlando Bravo discovered his edge early. In 1985, at age 15, he traveled from his home in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, a small town on the island’s western coast, to Bradenton, Florida, to enroll in the legendary tennis guru Nick Bollettieri’s grueling academy.
Bravo would wake at dawn, head to class at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, then return to Bollettieri’s tennis courts at noon. He spent hours warring against peers like Andre Agassi and Jim Courier under the broiling sun. At sundown, after an hour to shower and eat, he would study, then retire to a sweaty, two-bedroom condominium in which players bunked four to a room like army barracks. Then he would do it all over again, six days a week, for a full year. “It was the tennis version of Lord of the Flies,” says his former roommate Courier.
The brutally competitive environment helped Bravo climb to a top-40 ranking in the U.S. as a junior. Then he peaked. “It was quite humbling,” recalls Bravo, who’s still fit from his weekly tennis games. “It was a different level of hard work altogether. It became clear I could operate at these super-high levels of pain.”
That grit and perseverance eventually propelled him to the top echelons of the private equity world. Few outside of finance have heard of the 49-year-old Bravo, but he is the driving force behind Wall Street’s hottest firm, the $39 billion (assets) Thoma Bravo.
In February, the French business school HEC Paris, in conjunction with Dow Jones, named Thoma Bravo the best-performing buyout investor in the world after studying 898 funds raised between 2005 and 2014. According to public data analyzed by Forbes, its funds returned 30% net annually, far better than famous buyout firms like KKR, Blackstone and Apollo Global Management. That’s even better than the returns from the software buyout firm Vista Equity Partners, its closest rival, run by Robert F. Smith, the African American billionaire who recently made headlines by paying off the college debt of Morehouse College’s entire graduating class. Since the beginning of 2015, Bravo has sold or listed 25 investments worth a total of $20 billion, four times their cost. His secret? He invests only in well-established software companies, especially those with clearly discernible moats.
“The economics of software were just so powerful. It was like no other industry I had ever researched,” says Bravo, seated in his office in San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid. He wears a tailored purple dress shirt and enunciates his words with a slight Puerto Rican accent. “It was just very obvious.”
Bravo’s firm has done 230 software deals worth over $68 billion since 2003 and presently oversees a portfolio of 38 software companies that generate some $12 billion in annual revenue and employ 40,000 people. Forbes estimates the value of the firm, which is owned entirely by Bravo and a handful of his partners, at $7 billion. Based on his stake in the firm and his cash in its funds, Bravo has a $3 billion fortune. Not only does that make him the first Puerto Rican-born billionaire, it’s enough for Bravo to debut at 287th place on this year’s Forbes 400 ranking of the richest Americans.
Like a good tennis player who’s worked relentlessly on his ground strokes, Bravo has made private equity investing look simple. There are no complicated tricks. He figured out nearly two decades ago that software and private equity were an incredible combination. Since then, Bravo has never invested elsewhere, instead honing his strategy and technique deal after deal. He hunts for companies with novel software products, like Veracode, a Burlington, Massachusetts-based maker of security features for coders, or Pleasanton, California-based Ellie Mae, the default system among online mortgage lenders, which the firm picked up for $3.7 billion in April. His investments typically have at least $150 million in sales from repeat customers and are in markets that are too specialized to draw the interest of giants like Microsoft and Google. Bravo looks to triple their size with better operations, and by the time he strikes, he’s already mapped out an acquisition or turnaround strategy.
The pool of potential deals is growing. On public markets, there are now more than 75 subscription software companies, worth nearly $1 trillion, that Bravo can target, versus fewer than 20, worth less than $100 billion, a decade ago. Investors around the world clamor to get into his firm’s funds, and lenders have checkbooks ready to finance his next big deal. “The opportunities today are the biggest I’ve ever seen,” Bravo says. “Right now we are in a huge, exploding and changing industry.”
Orlando Bravo’s isn’t a rags-to-riches story. He was born into a privileged life in Puerto Rico in the Spanish colonial city of Mayagüez, which for decades was the port for tuna fishing vessels supplying the local Starkist, Neptune and Bumble Bee canneries.
Starting in 1945, his grandfather Orlando Bravo, and later his father, Orlando Bravo Sr., ran Bravo Shipping, which acted as an agent for the massive tuna-fishing factory ships entering the port in Mayagüez. It was a lucrative business. His parents moved him and his younger brother Alejandro to what’s now a gated community in the hills of Mayagüez, where the brothers attended private schools and tooled about on the family’s 16-foot motorboat.
After taking up tennis at age 8, practicing on the courts of a local university and a Hilton hotel, Bravo and his family began making the two-and-a-half-hour drive from their home to San Juan on weekends to allow him to train against better competition. “What I loved about tennis was the opportunity,” he recalls. “I’m from Mayagüez, and I’m going to come to the big city and I’m going to make it,” he says. “Let’s go! The underdog!”
He quickly became one of Puerto Rico’s top players, which landed him at Bollettieri’s academy and then on Brown University’s tennis team. “I was so scared I wouldn’t make it through,” Bravo says of the Ivy League, so he took most classes pass/fail as a college freshman. But he quickly found his footing and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1992 with degrees in economics and political science. That helped him get a prestigious job as an analyst in Morgan Stanley’s mergers and acquisitions department. There he paid his dues, clocking 100-hour weeks under the renowned dealmaker Joseph Perella.
“I learned I didn’t want to invest in risky things ever again. It was too painful.”
Bravo’s Spanish fluency put him in front of clients as other analysts slaved away in data rooms. Working on Venezuelan billionaire Gustavo Cisneros’ 1993 acquisition of Puerto Rican supermarket chain Pueblo Xtra International opened his eyes to the world of buyouts. But mostly he says he learned he didn’t want to be a banker.
Bravo eventually headed west to Stanford University. He’d already been accepted into its law school, but he also wanted to attend the business school. He called insistently and eventually got accepted to pursue both. He worked during a summer at Seaver Kent, a Menlo Park, California-based joint venture with David Bonderman’s Texas Pacific Group that specialized in middle market deals. Upon graduation in 1998, Bravo wasn’t offered a position there or at TPG, and he spent months cold-calling for a job. After about a hundred calls, Bravo’s résumé caught the eye of Carl Thoma, a founding partner of the Chicago-based private equity firm Golder, Thoma, Cressey, Rauner (now known as GTCR), and they hit it off. “The biggest mistake Texas Pacific made was…that they didn’t make him a job offer,” says Thoma, 71, who Forbes estimates is also a billionaire based on an analysis of public filings.
One of the pioneers of the private equity industry in the 1970s, Thoma is a tall and mild-mannered Oklahoman whose parents were ranchers. Thoma and his partners practiced a friendlier version of the buyouts popularized by Michael Milken, preferring to buy small businesses and expand them using acquisitions. When Bravo came aboard in 1998, Thoma and partner Bryan Cressey had just split from Stanley Golder and Bruce Rauner, who later went on to become governor of Illinois, creating Thoma Cressey. Thoma sent Bravo to San Francisco to hunt for investments and eventually expand the firm’s Bay Area presence.
Bravo’s first few deals, struck before he turned 30, were disasters. He backed two website design startups, NerveWire and Eclipse Networks, just as the dot-com bubble popped. The two lost most of the $100 million Bravo invested. “I learned I didn’t want to invest in risky things ever again,” Bravo says. “It was too painful to live through.” Thoma Cressey was also struggling elsewhere, with underperforming investments in oil and gas and telecommunications. It was among the worst performers in the private equity industry at the time.
“Every time we picked up our heads to peek at a deal that wasn’t software, the software deal looked a lot better to us.”
But the failure led to an epiphany that soon made Bravo and his partners billions. He realized his mistake was in backing startup entrepreneurs, an inherently risky move, when for the same money he could buy established companies selling niche software to loyal customers. With Thoma’s blessing, Bravo pivoted and became an expert on these arcane firms. Coming out of the dot-com bust, the market was littered with foundering companies that had gone public during the bubble and had few interested buyers. Bravo got to work. His first big move, in 2002, was to buy Prophet 21, a Yardley, Pennsylvania-based software provider to distributors in the healthcare and manufacturing sectors that was trading at a mere one times sales.
Rather than clean house, Bravo kept the company’s CEO, Chuck Boyle, and worked beside him to boost profits, mainly by rolling up competitors. When Boyle wanted to buy a company called Faspac, Bravo flew to San Diego to work out of the Faspac owner’s garage for five days, analyzing reams of contracts to see if the deal would work. “Orlando would help not only at the highest level with strategy but also when we got grunt work done,” Boyle recalls. After seven acquisitions, Bravo sold the business for $215 million, making five times his money.
Software quickly became Bravo’s sole focus, and Thoma Cressey began to thrive. By 2005, Bravo and Thoma had recruited three employees, Scott Crabill, Holden Spaht and Seth Boro, to focus on software applications, cybersecurity and Web infrastructure. All remain with the firm today as managing partners.
Bravo’s big opportunity came during the financial crisis when Thoma put Bravo’s name on the door and split with his partner Bryan Cressey, a healthcare investor, creating Thoma Bravo. From that moment on, the firm invested only in software, with Bravo leading the way.
A string of billion-dollar buyouts followed—Sunnyvale, California-based network security firm Blue Coat, financial software outfit Digital Insight of Westlake Village, California, and Herndon, Virginia’s Deltek, which sells project management software—all of which more than doubled in value under Bravo’s watch. The firm’s inaugural 2009 software-only fund posted a 44% net annualized return by the time its investments were sold, making investors four times their money and proving the wisdom of discipline and specialization. “Every time we picked up our heads to peek at a deal that wasn’t software, the software deal looked a lot better to us,” he brags.
It’s late May, and Orlando Bravo’s 20th-floor offices overlooking the San Francisco Bay are filled with dozens of tech executives from its portfolio companies. Folks from Houston’s Quorum Software, which makes technology systems for oil and gas companies, mingle with cybersecurity experts from Redwood Shores, California’s Imperva. They juggle their rollerboard suitcases and thick financial books as Thoma Bravo partners map out corporate strategies on dry-erase whiteboards. Those on break hammer away at keyboards in small workrooms or demolish chicken sandwiches in a no-frills kitchenette.
This is one of Thoma Bravo’s monthly boot camps for new acquisitions, grueling daylong sessions that are critical to its success. Partners regularly buzz into Bravo’s spartan glass-walled offices, while in the background the drilling and hammering of construction workers making room for 13 new associates disturbs the peace.
With a fresh $12.6 billion war chest, Bravo is now eyeing $10 billion-plus deals and expects to begin buying entire divisions of tech giants.
After two decades studying software, Bravo recognizes clear patterns. For instance, when a company pioneers a product, its sales explode and then inevitably slow as competitors emerge. Often a CEO will use this cue to stray into new markets or overspend to gin up sales. Bravo calls this “chasing too many rabbits.” To fix it, he and his ten partners work alongside 22 current and former software executives who serve as consultants. They begin tracking the profit-and-loss statements for each product line and pore over contracts in search of bad deals or underpriced products. Critically, by the time a Thoma Bravo acquisition check clears, existing management has agreed that this rigorous approach will help. Bravo calls it “making peace with the past.”
There are also layoffs. Those can total as much as 10% of the workforce, for which Bravo doesn’t apologize. “In order to realign the business and set it up for big-time growth, you first need to take a step back before you take a step forward. It’s like boxing,” he says. “These are unbelievable assets with great innovators, and they are usually undermanaged.”
Mark Bishof, the former CEO of Flexera Software, an application management company outside of Chicago that Bravo bought in 2008 for $200 million and sold for a nearly $1 billion profit three years later, has a succinct description for this wild success. “He just kind of cuts all of the bullsh*t,” Bishof says. “It’s refreshing.” Flexera’s profits rose 70% during Bravo’s ownership, largely thanks to four major acquisitions. “Orlando’s like the general in the foxhole with his sergeant. You know he’s knee-deep in there with you,” Bishof gushes.
Under Thoma Bravo’s watch, companies on average saw cash flow surge as margins hit 35%, as of 2018, nearly triple those of the average public software company at that time. “It’s like training for the Olympics. . . . You have a finite goal to make it [in year four], and you make it very, very clear,” Bravo says. Today’s roaring market adds potency to the playbook. Lenders are now gorging on software debt, and stock market multiples for these businesses are surging.
“I learned more about building an efficient software company over the last four and a half years than in the first 30 years of my career.”
A recent example is Detroit’s Compuware, a decades-old pioneer of software applications to manage mainframe computer systems. In 2013, this Nasdaq-listed giant was all but left for dead and up for sale. There was minimal interest, other than from Bravo and partner Seth Boro, who were keen on Dynatrace, software that helped companies move databases to the cloud, which Compuware had acquired in 2011. Thoma Bravo used $675 million in cash and raised $1.8 billion in debt to buy Compuware and then split off Dynatrace as a separate company. The pair began to move Dynatrace from selling database licenses, once the bulk of its business, to cloud subscription services, now 70% of sales. This past August, Dynatrace went public, and Thoma Bravo’s 70% stake is now worth over $4 billion, with the remainder of Compuware worth nearly a billion more. “I learned more about building an efficient software company over the last four and a half years than in the first 30 years of my career,” says Dynatrace CEO John Van Siclen.
With a fresh $12.6 billion war chest for its 13th fund raised in 2018, Bravo is eyeing $10 billion-plus deals and expects to begin buying entire divisions from today’s technology giants. But thanks in part to the success of his firm, he now faces more competition. Heavyweights like Blackstone and KKR are increasingly sussing out software deals, not to mention his longtime rival Vista Equity. And he’s not immune to mistakes. Bravo’s $3.6 billion 2015 acquisition of San Francisco-based digital network tracker Riverbed Technology is currently struggling because of slowing sales and too much debt. He isn’t worried. “There are bigger and better companies to fix than there were ten years ago,” Bravo says.
His biggest challenge these days is likely back home in Puerto Rico where it all began. Bravo announced in May that he is contributing $100 million to his Bravo Family Foundation that will be used to promote entrepreneurship and economic development on the island.
This new foundation was birthed by Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island two years ago. Bravo was in Japan raising cash for yet another massive fund and frantically calling San Juan trying to locate his parents, who were living in the capital. They were fine, but the island wasn’t.
Five days later, he flew his Gulfstream jet with 1,000 pounds of supplies—water, granola bars, meal kits, satellite telephones, diapers, intravenous tubes and hydration pills—to Aguadilla, near Mayagüez. When an airport worker opened the door of his plane, Bravo says, the look of fear on his face was unforgettable. “All you could say was ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you.’ ”
He returned two weeks later in a larger plane with 7,000 pounds of supplies. Then he came in a massive DC-10 cargo plane before ultimately chartering two container ships carrying 600,000 pounds. “It was just like cold-calling for deals,” Bravo says of rounding up all the donations. He personally put in $3 million in just the first 30 days, and committed $10 million altogether.
When the Federal Emergency Management Agency became fully operative there, the island’s richest native turned his attention to Puerto Rico’s future. Though 44% of Puerto Ricans live below the poverty line, Bravo believes in the potential to foster entrepreneurship, citing that a tenth of the population has tried to build a business.
Armed with his money, his foundation is looking to back Puerto Rican technology entrepreneurs, even ferrying them to Thoma Bravo’s offices for training. Bravo admits to being tired of the debate over Puerto Rico’s statehood and holds his tongue when asked about President Trump’s performance during Maria. “My passion, which is the same as with companies, is to move beyond the strategic, long-term pontification, and into the operational and tactical moves that make you move forward today,” he says. “Economies go down, companies miss their numbers, trade stops, product issues happen and people quit. [The question is] do you have a creative approach to problem solving?” Bravo says. “Some people are stuck . . . and some people love putting the pieces together. I just feel like every operational problem can be solved. There’s always a solution.”
Recommended: Read Forbes’ Other Dealmaking Cover Stories
I’m a staff writer at Forbes, where I cover finance and investing. My beat includes hedge funds, private equity, fintech, mutual funds, M&A and banks. I’m a graduate of Middlebury College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and I’ve worked at TheStreet and Businessweek. Before becoming a financial scribe, I was a part of the fateful 2008 analyst class at Lehman Brothers. Email thoughts and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter at @antoinegara
Orlando Bravo, managing partner of Thoma Bravo and founder of the Bravo Family Foundation, https://www.bravofamilyfoundation.org/, announced he personally will contribute $100 million to his foundation to promote entrepreneurship and economic development in Puerto Rico, where Bravo was raised, and his family still lives.
Stocks down for the week so far but trade optimism gives positive tone early
Micron shares fall on disappointing forecast
Wells Fargo gets a new CEO, helping lift shares
Friday dawns after a week that didn’t provide much direction for investors. Stocks have generally chopped around in reaction to the latest geopolitical or domestic political news, and stayed in a tight range.
The question Friday might be whether the major indices can propel themselves to a victory for the week, because they start the session slightly down from a week ago thanks to positive trade vibes and solid durable goods data. That data looked really nice, up from the previous month and rising for the third month in a row. We’ll have to see if that’s sustainable because a lot of it was from the defense sector in the form of planes and parts. Either way, the trend can sometimes be your friend, as the old market saying goes.
Also, the Personal Consumption Index (PCE)—the Fed’s preferred inflation metric—rose 0.1%, roughly in line with expectations. The core index, which strips out the often-volatile food and energy prices, also rose 0.1% to an annualized rate of 1.8%. It’s an uptick for sure, but still below the Fed’s stated target of 2% inflation. Might this be enough to shift the Fed’s thinking from dovish to neutral?
Whether or not stocks make a last-minute run here, it’s been hard to find much of a theme in the last few days. Hopes for progress in trade negotiations got reinforcement yesterday with an October 10 date set for new talks, but the noise out of China since then has mostly been about how willing they are to buy more U.S. products.
That’s all good, but it doesn’t get at the intellectual property and other issues that U.S. negotiators say are at the heart of the matter and apparently were a sticking point when the last round of talks broke down. It’s hard to see these talks getting much further without movement on these issues.
Another focus is the impeachment drama in Washington. Two big bombshells came out this week, but stocks didn’t show much reaction. As we’ve said, it’s important to keep your emotions out of trading, and impeachment is an emotional issue. It’s likely to be a long process and a constant background noise over the next weeks and months, but investors might serve themselves better by watching earnings and data.
It’s interesting to hear some analysts saying that the impeachment situation might actually be bullish because it could put pressure on the administration to get a trade deal done on the sooner side. This school of thought suggests President Trump might be keen to get some positive headlines to counter the negative ones. That remains to be seen and is just speculation for now.
On the earnings front, bad news came at the end of the week from Micron (MU), as the semiconductor firm issued guidance that Wall Street didn’t seem to like too much. Shares were down 5% in premarket trading. Revenue and earnings beat third-party consensus views, but were way down from a year ago as the company continues to struggle with demand for its memory products. It wouldn’t be too surprising to see the weakness in MU shares work their way into the entire chip sector, maybe putting pressure on Technology stocks today.
And Wells Fargo (WFC) is back in the news today after the financial company hired a new CEO. This ended a six-month search and means investors won’t have to approach WFC’s earnings call next month with more questions about who would head the company. Shares rose in premarket trading.
Quarterly Market Gains Not Much To See
The old quarter is just about over, and it’s been a wild one that basically didn’t go much of anywhere if you look at the major indices. Sure, they surged to new peaks at times, but also retreated. It ended up being almost a wash, with the benchmark S&P 500 (SPX) closing Thursday up just 1% from where it finished at the end of June.
The choppy trade that marked most of the quarter continued on Thursday, with the market giving up early gains, clawing back to flat and then losing more ground by the closing bell. Some of the “risk-on” trading we saw on Wednesday didn’t really carry into Thursday, with small-caps in the Russell 2000 (RUT) drifting lower and Financials having a rough day.
Instead, some caution appears to be coming back into play late this week, with Utilities and Real Estate near the top of the leaderboard Thursday. Those aren’t places people tend to go when they’re feeling gung-ho about the economy. Bonds—another defensive area—also rallied, but gold didn’t share in the fun.
Though every day seems to have a different theme, there’s a lot of concern out there about the fundamental picture. It’s good to hear that new trade talks begin October 10, as we found out Thursday, but a resolution doesn’t seem all that close.
One concern is that new tariffs announced last month on Chinese goods could start having an impact on consumer spending, which would possibly cause companies to get even more cautious. If companies stay in a holding pattern, it’s hard to see any significant rally on the horizon. Earnings growth is already expected to fall year-over-year in Q3 after sinking in Q1 and Q2.
When you get right down to it, earnings drive the market. If investors continue to see earnings grow at slower rates, at some point the market could start to reflect that. FactSet, a research firm, predicts a nearly 4% earnings loss for S&P 500 companies in Q3. Earnings fell 0.4% in Q2 and also fell in Q1, making this potentially the first three-quarter stretch of falling year-over-year earnings since late 2015/early 2016.
No Fun for FAANGS
Some of the FAANG stocks, including Amazon (AMZN), Netflix (NFLX) and Facebook (FB), also are having tough weeks. Again, it’s regulatory issues dogging FB, but the others could be under pressure from changing money flows as the FAANG sector seems to be losing some of its mojo, according to an article this week on MarketWatch.
Next week will be October, after Monday at least, so let’s look at what the market’s going to be grappling with beyond the China trade and impeachment stories. We’re still a few weeks out from earnings, meaning volatility could be a factor and the market could move up or down quickly based on the latest headlines or tweets. It could still do that after earnings start in mid-October, too, but earnings give people something solid to point at in times of turmoil.
One thing we’ll be pointing to next week is a monthly payrolls report for September. A lot of eyes are likely to be on the numbers a week from today, wondering if those relatively modest job gains back in August were a one-time deal or maybe a sign of something more serious. Even before August, job growth had been slowing this year, but it’s still above the level economists think we need to keep unemployment low.
Other data aren’t so exciting next week, but Chicago PMI on Monday might be interesting when you consider recent data where manufacturing activity appears to be slowing down. Chicago PMI surprised to the upside last time and came in above 50. Anything below that would indicate economic contraction, according to how the report is structured. It was 50.4 in August.
Volatility can sometimes tick up the last days of the quarter, but the Cboe Volatility Index (VIX) has dropped below 16 this morning after topping 17 earlier this week.
Company Caution Crimps Quarter: Normally, the government’s report on gross domestic product (GDP) gets lots of attention. That wasn’t the case yesterday because a few other things were going on (there’ve been some political headlines, if you haven’t noticed). A check of the data showed 2% growth in Q2, which means the slowdown that began early this year continued. As a reminder, gross domestic product was nearly 3% in 2018. To some extent, this downturn probably reflects the trade war with China. Many companies appear to be in a holding state because they’re putting off decisions on business plans. You can’t continue to have companies putting decisions off, because it could start affecting the longer curve of growth. It may already be doing that.
Crude Concerns: The fundamental concerns mentioned above aren’t any easier to dismiss when you consider how crude’s behaved recently. Remember when U.S. crude rose above $60 less than two weeks ago in a 15% one-day rally? Seems like a long time ago, with crude back down in the mid-$50s by Thursday. Rising U.S. inventories apparently caught some market participants by surprise and raised questions about demand. It’s just a week or two of data, so you don’t want to make any broad conclusions, but falling crude demand would possibly be a sign of a slowing economy if it continues. That remains to be seen, but for the moment it’s hurting the Energy sector, which suffered more than a 1% loss yesterday.
Batting 3000: The first time the S&P 500 (SPX) crossed the 2000 level was on Aug. 26, 2014. But it traded below 2000 on an intraday basis 22 months later, on June 27, 2016. The lesson here? Just because an index crosses a big round-number benchmark doesn’t mean you can put that magic number in the rearview mirror and forget about it. We’re getting a reminder of that now, with the SPX struggling to get its head above 3000 after first hitting that mark back in July. At this point, the late July intraday high of 3027 remains the peak, and the SPX has fluttered back and forth above and below 3000 ever since.
This doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll still be wrestling with 3000 in mid-2021, though that can’t be ruled out. And while we’re talking scenarios, one can’t rule out a major test to the downside either. In the near term, it’s very hard to see any move above 3000 lasting long without a China deal. Anticipated weak earnings are another major barrier, because without earnings growth, it gets harder and harder to justify rallies.
TD Ameritrade® commentary for educational purposes only. Member SIPC.
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
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Topline: Recession fears—which have gone up and down and back up just in the past nine months—suddenly seem here to stay for the foreseeable future, as global growth slows to a crawl amid trade war fears. Here’s what happened this week, along with key reactions:
Goldman Sachs issued a note Monday saying a trade deal between the U.S. and China is not expected to be made before the 2020 presidential election.
On Tuesday, Trump walked back planned tariffs on China, delaying some until after holiday shopping, his first acknowledgment that tariffs impact U.S. shoppers.
On Wednesday, Germany’s economy was reported to have shrunk as it contends with Trump’s tariffs and trade war with China.
Trump also blasted the Federal Reserve Wednesday on Twitter, as he blamed the central bank for dragging down the U.S. economy and returns on government bonds.
Then Wednesday’s close registered the worst stock performance of 2019, as investors were spooked by Germany, China and the much-discussed inverted yield curve.
China responded on Thursday by promising a retaliation, threatening “necessary countermeasures.”
By Friday, the Dow rebounded 300 points before closing bell, while the S&P recovered 40 points and the tech-heavy NASDAQ bounced almost 130. But the Dow still lost 1.5% for the week, while the S&P edged slightly down at 0.3%.
Globally, the FTSE 100 regained 50 points, while the Nikkei recovered 13 Friday, but both indexes ended the week lower than where they started.
Analysts pegged the stock market’s slight Friday recovery to an increase in government bond yields.
Key background: The yield curve is the difference in interest rates (or returns) between short-term and long-term bonds. Usually, investors get more money when they invest in 10-year bonds over three-month short-term bonds. The yield curve is also a pretty accurate historical predictor of recessions, so when it happens, economists and investors alike get worried. This year, the yield curve inverted in March and May, and it happened again Wednesday, contributing to the stock market’s tumble.
I’m a New York-based journalist covering breaking news at Forbes. I hold a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Previous bylines: Gotham Gazette, Bklyner, Thrillist, Task & Purpose, and xoJane.
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.
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 (BABA – Get Report) posted stronger-than-expected fiscal fourth-quarter earnings as consumer growth on its online marketplace surged and its tie-up with Starbucks (SBUX – Get Report) , the world’s biggest coffee chain, helped boost revenue and its cloud computing sales surged.
Macy’s (M – Get 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%.
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 (ACB – Get 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.”
Aurora Cannabis is in TheStreet’s Stocks Under $10 portfolio. To find out more about how you can profit from this investing approach, please click here.
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 (LM – Get Report) and push the mutual fund company to improve its flagging results, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
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.
There are two reasons for today’s correction. One was an immediate over-reaction to news headlines, the other is a rethinking of key market-friendly reforms needed in Brazil this year.
Yesterday’s arrest of former president Michel Temer reminded everyone that the Petrobras Car Wash scandal, the very scandal that led to two years of recession and a never-ending political crisis, will pull the rug out from under this country in seconds flat. Brazil stocks are now underperforming. But just wait until investors price in a failed pension reform, which is probably just three months away. I think that is already starting to happen and Temer’s arrest was just reminder that Brazil is in crisis-mode, making it difficult to govern.
Temer was pulled in on Thursday by Federal Police officers for his role in the Petrobras crime spree. They said he helped run an “organized crime” ring within the government: a system of pay-to-play contracts with civil engineering firms like Odebrecht building all sorts of stuff for Petrobras and skimming millions of dollars off the top. Dozens of A-list executives have been jailed now for at least three years. And yadda yadda yadda. … Temer was next in line.
To date, of the top political leaders in charge during the Petrobras contract-rigging scheme, only ex-president Dilma Rousseff is still standing. She desperately tried to become senator of her home state of Minas Gerais last October but came in third place, probably not because she loved politics or had nothing better to do for work. Now that she is a private citizen, like Temer, she has lost political immunity.
Temer: Petrobras presidential jailbird No. 2. AP Photo/Eraldo Peres
More Than What’s On Paper: The Risky Business Of Being Courageous
Dilma was impeached in a somewhat farcical April 2016 vote by the lower house of Congress for breaching budget laws. She was later indicted in August of that year, making her vice president, Temer, the new interim President. Her impeachment had nothing to do with Petrobras, though the people who instigated it did, with one of them, House Speaker Eduardo Cunha … in jail.
Brazil spent much of the last two and a half years in political chaos because of Petrobras.
Temer was the most disliked president in Brazilian history, with an approval rating struggling to get over 10%. When the election season began in 2018, it became clear that no one from the parties associated with Petrobras was going to win.
They tried hard. Lawyers for jailed ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva worked overtime trying to convince the United Nations and media influencers from London to New York that he was an innocent man, jailed for his politics. His handpicked successor was Dilma. His second handpicked successor was a former São Paulo mayor, Fernando Haddad. Haddad took it upon himself to admit that he was not his own man, even going so far as printing up and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the ridiculous campaign slogan: “Haddad is Lula.” He visited Lula in jail for campaign advice. And so as while rubbing the face of the electorate with indicted Petrobras criminals, Haddad got beat by a family-values conservative named Jair Bolsonaro who symbolized the boiled-over anger of those who had had it with anyone affiliated with embattled oil company.
A supporter of former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva cries in hopes of his release outside the federal police department where Lula is serving a 12-year sentence for corruption in Curitiba, Brazil, on Dec. 19, 2018. No one has heard from him or about him since the start of the new year. AP Photo/Denis Ferreira
By The Way, Where’s Lula?
Lula has been totally absent from the headlines. The biggest fish fried by the Federal Police made himself part of the daily news cycle in the fall of 2018. The New York Times gave him op-ed space where he sold his political persecution story to the world. (I tried to get an opposing view in the NYT, arguing that he was not a political prisoner, but they rejected it. Tudo bem.)
Now, the disgraced founder of the Workers’ Party is spending the next 12 years in jail, at least. No one is outside his prison quarters cheering “Good morning, president Lula” anymore. He is alone and—mostly—forgotten.
His lawyers are no longer blasting reporters’ Whatsapp accounts with their latest filings of a habeas corpus or a statement by someone who works for the UN Human Rights Commission saying that the Petrobras investigators used their legal powers to jail him unlawfully. Those days are suddenly gone. And they are gone, obviously, because the election is over and the Workers’ Party lost. Lula’s “political persecution” was what it was: a political campaign for the Workers’ Party.
The Car Wash investigation isn’t picking parties to plunder.
Temer’s Democratic Movement Party, a big-tent party of wealthy Brazilian oligarchs, one of the oldest parties in the country, also lost big in last year’s election because of Petrobras. In fact, every party that was part of the government, even those that were part of the majority opposition, got handed their walking papers because of this scandal.
It is no surprise that Temer was arrested. If the courts don’t get you, the voters will.
Supporters of presidential candidate of the Workers’ Party Fernando Haddad, dressed in a banner written in Portuguese: “Haddad is Lula 13. AP Photo/Eraldo Peres
Brazil’s new government rose to power out of sheer hatred of politicians like Temer and Lula. But this new government is surrounded by noise. Temer’s arrest will likely push Bolsonaro’s already declining public opinion polls lower, especially if Brazilians do not see their economic outlook improving.
Some 68% view Bolsonaro as either “good” or “very good,” with numbers for “very good” declining 15 points since his inauguration in January.
At the start of the year, Jan Dehn, head of research for the Ashmore Group, a $74 billion emerging markets asset manager in London, told me he was giving Bolsonaro until the end of the first half to get something done — on pension reform, in particular. That has been the one issue propping up Bolsonaro’s stock price. As soon as the market feels pension reform is in jeopardy, Brazil’s stock market turns the other way, and Bolsonaro is governing over political crisis and weakening investor sentiment, not much different than Temer did.
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, said of Temer’s arrest: “Each person has to be responsible for their actions.” Andre Coelho/Bloomberg
It is difficult to govern in Brazil due to all the different political alliances. This is not a two-party system. Considering the difficulties already involved in the Brazilian congress, throw political crisis on top of that and it becomes even harder.
Bolsonaro was relatively quiet on Temer’s arrest, preferring to say that, “Each person should be held responsible for their actions.”
Bolsonaro wasn’t elected on an economic platform. He was always an anti-Lula, law-and-order vote.
His government’s economic team is led by BTG Pactual founder Paulo Guedes, a University of Chicago-educated markets guy who has set the course for a somewhat overambitious list of economic reforms. Bolsonaro basically put Guedes in charge of the market.
Given the complex process in approving Guedes’ measures, from pension reforms to privatization, delays are more likely today because of uncertainty surrounding Petrobras investigations than they were last week. The Car Wash investigations are not over, and that means key members of congress could, in theory, be focused on other matters, or perhaps, lose their post in key cabinet positions in worst case scenarios.
Bolsonaro’s small political party—the Social Liberal Party—was not part of the Petrobras scandal, so it is possible they will not be scrambling like the congressional leaders were under Temer’s Administration when arrests were made of private citizens affiliated with them.
On the bright side, that means Bolsonaro has a better chance to inoculate himself from the Petrobras-related arrests like the eight individuals arrested on Thursday.
The rest of Bolsonaro’s economic agenda depends on how well he can separate himself and his team from the Petrobras brat pack. He will have to remind them that he is president because he was never part of that group in the first place.
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