DAILY MARKET REPORTS
- U.S. stocks rose modestly on Wednesday, boosted by technology shares and an Amazon-led jump in retailers, helping pull the S&P 500 from the brink of bear market territory following punishing few sessions.
- The rally comes after the Dow industrials and the S&P 500 tumbled more than 2.5% Monday, their worst-ever performances on Christmas Eve.
- Worries about rising interest rates, trade tensions with China and slumping oil prices have spooked investors for much of the fourth quarter, putting all three major U.S. indexes on track for annual declines for the first time since 2008.
- The blue chips have lost more than 1,800 points, or nearly 8%, over the previous four sessions alone.
- Most economists say the odds of a recession next year are low, but a growing number are pessimistic that economic growth will be able to continue 2018’s breakneck pace, part of which was fueled by a sweeping corporate tax cut.
- Early data for the crucial fourth-quarter shopping season showed consumers delivered the strongest holiday sales increase for U.S. retailers in six years.
- President Donald Trump said on Tuesday partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government, which has entered the fifth day, will last until his demand for funds to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border is met.
US FINANCIAL MARKET
Amazon claims a record-breaking holiday season by items sold as it seeks to beat weak outlook for the quarter
- Customers worldwide ordered more items than ever from Amazon this holiday season, the company announced Wednesday.
- Amazon said tens of millions of people signed up this season for free trials or paid memberships for Amazon Prime, and sold millions more of its own devices, like the Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick 4K, compared with last year.
- Amazon’s Alexa was the most popular app in the U.S. on Apple’s App store Wednesday, meaning lots of devices were likely activated on Christmas Day.
Investor Cutback in New Market Bets Is Most Severe Since 2008
- The investor pullback from the asset-management industry in 2018 is the most severe since the last financial crisis, a sign that doubts about the direction of global markets are intensifying.
- Net inflows for U.S. mutual and exchange-traded funds in the first 11 months of the year fell to $237 billion, according to new estimates compiled by research firm Morningstar. That was down 62% from the year-ago period, the steepest decline since 2008.
- Asset managers attracted a record $629.5 billion in net flows during the same period in 2017, a boom year for the industry.
‘Black Panther,’ ‘Avengers’ Top Record 2018 Box Office
- “Black Panther” and other Disney superheroes powered Hollywood to a record year at the box office, which is expected to finish 2018 with ticket sales up about 6% from last year’s returns.
- At the current pace, the U.S. and Canadian box office will end the year with returns of around $11.8 billion, according to executives and analysts, compared with $11.1 billion in 2017.
- Disney has dominated the box office to an unprecedented degree in recent years. Its movies accounted for about 26% of all domestic ticket sales in 2018.
Lawsuit against Boeing over Lion Air crash demands Chicago jury trial
- The family of a man who was killed when a Lion Air flight crashed in October has sued Boeing, alleging the 737 MAX 8 aircraft was “unreasonably dangerous” and demanding a jury trial in Chicago, where the U.S. manufacturer is based.
- The lawsuit alleges that the two-month-old Boeing aircraft was unreasonably dangerous because its sensors provided inaccurate data to its flight control system, causing its anti-stall system to improperly engage.
- It also alleges Boeing failed to provide adequate instructions to pilots on how to respond to and disengage the plane’s anti-stall system.
US ECONOMY & POLITICS
U.S. Holiday Retail Sales Are Strongest in Years, Early Data Show
- Total U.S. retail sales, excluding automobiles, rose 5.1% between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 from a year earlier, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks both online and in-store spending with all forms of payment.
- Overall, U.S. consumers spent over $850 billion this holiday season, according to Mastercard.
- Mastercard found that sales from online shopping grew 19.1% between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 compared with the year-earlier period.
- Overall, sales from bricks-and-mortar stores rose 3.3%.
U.S. Government Shutdown Enters Fifth Day
- Negotiations between the White House and lawmakers were expected to resume Wednesday, after a pause for the Christmas holiday, but neither Mr. Trump nor Democrats showed any signs of softening in the fight over border wall funding that closed the government, starting on Saturday.
- In a series of tweets this week, Mr. Trump appeared to dig in on his demand that billions more in funding for a wall along the border with Mexico must be part of any spending package to reopen the government.
- Both the House and Senate are scheduled to convene on Thursday, but it wasn’t clear how much progress negotiations would make this week. White House officials predicted this weekend that the shutdown could last into 2019.
Home-Price Growth Remained Flat in October
- The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, rose 5.5% in the year ending in October, unchanged from the increase reported in September.
- Just six out of 20 cities reported greater annual increases in September than October.
- Price growth is set to end the year on a more muted note than it began. The slowdown has unnerved sellers, as many have been forced to cut prices after putting their homes on the market still expecting the steep increases their neighbors had seen.
- But more moderate price growth is a relief for many first-time buyers, taking the edge off higher mortgage rates and potentially allowing wages to start to catch up with the steep price gains in recent years.
U.S. Farmers Fear Lucrative Japanese Exports Will Wither
- On Dec. 30, Tokyo will begin cutting tariffs and easing quotas on products sold by some of American agriculture’s biggest competitors—including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Chile—as part of the new 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
- By April 1, exporters from the EU and TPP will face a 26.6% Japanese tariff for chilled and frozen beef, compared with a 38.5% tariff for Americans, while paying a 13.3% duty on prepared pork, versus 20% for Americans.
- U.S. farmers are particularly concerned because Japan has been one of their biggest, and most stable, export markets. American producers are the largest food exporters to Japan, with 25% market share, ahead of the EU’s 13%.
EUROPE & WORLD
China’s JD.com Plans $1 Billion Share Buyback
- Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com announced a $1 billion share buyback program in a bid to lift stock prices weighed down by concerns about China’s economy and potential sexual-assault charges against the company’s chief executive.
- The buyback program is worth about 3.5% of the company’s market capitalization, and the company said it would be completed over the next 12 months.
- Shares of JD.com and other Chinese tech companies have been battered this year as investors fret about slower economic growth in China, tightening government regulations and the trade battle with the U.S.
TODAY in HISTORY
- Christopher Columbus established the first Spanish settlement in the New World. (1492)
- In the Indian Ocean, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the largest in 40 years, triggered a tsunami that ultimately killed more than 280,000. (2004)
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