US FINANCIAL MARKET
STOCKS STEADY WITH DOLLAR AS HOLIDAYS KICK OFF
- U.S. stocks fluctuated near a record and Treasuries slipped in thin Christmas Eve trading. Oil and gold rose.
- The S&P 500 Index held onto a 28% gain for the year, best year since 2013.
- Trading volume was 40% below the 30-day average for this time of day.
- Markets are open half a day on Christmas Eve and closed for all of Christmas.
- Boeing slipped after rallying Monday, when the troubled planemaker announced a leadership change.
- Uber edged higher after its co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick will resign from the company’s board of directors by the end of the year.
- Shares fluctuated in London, Paris and Madrid. Markets in Germany and Italy were closed, anticipating Wednesday’s holiday that will shutter exchanges on both sides of the Atlantic.
- The 10-year Treasury yield hit 1.95%.
- West Texas oil climbed above $60 a barrel.
- Precious metal futures were mostly higher.
Uber Co-Founder Travis Kalanick to Depart Company’s Board
- Travis Kalanick is leaving the board of Uber Technologies, the ride-hailing giant he co–founded.
- Uber said in a statement Tuesday that Mr. Kalanick’s departure from the board will be effective Dec. 31.
- Mr. Kalanick’s move to leave comes after weeks of stock sales that have whittled down his exposure to the company’s shares.
- Mr. Kalanick has sold more than $2.5 billion of Uber stock in recent weeks, more than 90% of his stake.
U.S. Retailers, Delivery Companies Stress Over Last-Minute Shoppers
- Retailers battled for last-minute shoppers and delivery companies raced to keep up with a surge of packages in the final sprint of a shortened holiday shopping season.
- Super Saturday, as the last Saturday before Christmas is known, is projected to be the year’s biggest shopping day, as an increasing share of consumers left at least some gift buying until the 11th hour.
- Traffic to physical stores on Saturday fell 9.7% compared with the Saturday before Christmas last year, according to Sensormatic Solutions ShopperTrak data, which uses cameras to count traffic to stores.
- Traffic to stores between Nov. 3 and Dec. 21 fell 7.7% compared with last year.
- Online sales rose 13.6% to $125.6 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 19, with buying on smartphones accounting for 35% of that revenue, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks hundreds of retail websites.
- PwC has predicted that overall holiday sales will rise 2.7%, slightly lower than the roughly 4% increase predicted by the NRF and some other consultants.
Online-Shopping Boom Delivers Haul for Van Makers
- Sales of vans used to transport packages and other internet-ordered items are booming, driven by a continued surge in online shopping and the popularity of free delivery services, auto executives and analysts say.
- Auto makers are notching record van sales and adding new features to the traditionally no-frills vehicles as they vie for a bigger share of a category that executives expect to outpace the broader auto market in coming years.
- U.S. sales of cargo vans used in fleet services rose 5% last year and are on pace to jump 19% this year, compared with flat sales in the broader vehicle market, according to research firm J.D. Power.
- Sales are expected to stay strong through mid-decade as ever-shorter delivery times drive demand for smaller, more-versatile vehicles, analysts and executives say.
SEC Investigating BMW Over Sales Practices
- The Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into whether German luxury car maker BMW manipulated sales figures, according to people familiar with the matter.
- The regulator is looking into whether the Munich-based auto maker engaged in a practice known as sales punching in the U.S.
- Sale punching occurs when a company boosts sales figures by having dealers register cars as sold when the vehicles actually are still standing on car lots.
- BMW acknowledged the investigation, but wouldn’t comment on the specifics of the probe.
Drugmakers Turn to Data Mining to Avoid Expensive, Lengthy Drug Trials
- Drugmakers are trying to win drug approvals by parsing vast data sets of electronic medical records, shifting away from lengthy, and costly, clinical trials in patients.
- Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Amgen are among the drugmakers that have submitted the data-mining analyses to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in seeking approval to sell new medicines or for new uses for older ones.
- The FDA has approved new uses for breast cancer, bladder cancer and leukemia drugs in part based on the data.
U.S. activist investors post strong gains as needling companies pays off
- Activist investors who are shaking up Corporate America with calls for operational fixes, refreshed boards and even sales of a company are delivering their best returns in six years with double-digit gains for 2019 after big losses in 2018.
- Through the end of November, activist managers on average returned 13.09%, according to data from Hedge Fund Research, which tracks various investment strategies’ returns.
- The gains illustrate a sharp recovery from 2018 when the average activist lost 10.4%, in part because a late-year stock market tumble erased gains at many funds.
- Fueled by high double-digit returns at certain funds, activists are handily outperforming all other types of hedge funds where the average fund returned 8.5% this year, HFR data shows.
- In the United States alone, activists targeted 464 companies this year through mid-December, roughly the same number as last year, data from Activist Insight shows.
US ECONOMY & POLITICS
McConnell, Schumer Lay Out Dueling Visions for Senate Impeachment Trial
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he remains at an impasse with Democrats over the next step of the impeachment process, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has declined to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until she knows what the rules will be for President Trump’s trial.
- Mr. McConnell has indicated he doesn’t want witnesses to testify in Mr. Trump’s trial.
- Democrats have said they want to hear from four witnesses whose testimony the White House blocked during the House investigation, among them acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
- Mr. Schumer also called for the Senate to subpoena documents from the State Department and the Office of Management and Budget.
EUROPE & WORLD
China to take measures to support jobs amid economic slowdown
- China will step up support for employment to cope with rising pressure on job security due to internal and external challenges, the cabinet said on Tuesday, as the world’s second-largest economy slows.
- China will step up financial support for private and small firms, including implementing targeted reserve requirement cuts and encouraging banks to boost long-term loans to small firms in the manufacturing sector, the cabinet said.
- The government will also expand investment appropriately and stabilise foreign trade to boost employment, it said.
TODAY in HISTORY
- The War of 1812 between America and Britain ended with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. (1814)
- “Silent Night” was composed by Franz Joseph Gruber. (1818)
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