Stocks Drop, With Tech Earnings in Focus – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- U.S. stocks fell amid concerns about Covid-19 vaccine distribution and as investors parsed a bumper day of earnings reports.
- Delays in the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, coupled with lingering lockdown measures, marked a “double whammy” of bad news for investors, said Hani Redha, a portfolio manager at PineBridge Investments.
- AstraZeneca rebutted reports Wednesday that it had pulled out of a meeting with European Union officials, as a spat between the two groups regarding a vaccine shortfall deepened.
- The Biden administration said Tuesday it would purchase enough additional coronavirus shots to vaccinate most of the U.S. with a two-dose regimen by the end of summer.
- Microsoft gained 1% after the company reported record quarterly sales Tuesday. Its shares closed at a new high Tuesday.
- Walgreens Boots Alliance was up 9.4% after the drugstore chain named Starbucks operating chief Rosalind Brewer as its next chief executive.
- The Fed is expected to leave monetary policy unchanged and Chairman Jerome Powell will likely underscore the bank’s commitment to supporting the economy with low interest rates and bond buying for the foreseeable future.
- Mr. Powell will likely face questions about the health of the economy and how long the Fed’s stimulus measures will remain in place.
- GameStop surged 106% as day traders, propelled by social media, looked ready to pile into the retailer for another day.
- The stock rose 113% Tuesday amid a battle between individual investors and hedge funds who are shorting the stock.
- Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 was down 1.7%, while in Asia, stock indexes were mixed. Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.3%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.3%, while in mainland China, the Shanghai Composite edged up 0.1%.
Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Hospitalizations Continue to Fall – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- U.S. hospitalizations due to Covid-19 have fallen more than 17% in the past three weeks and newly reported cases remain well off recent peaks, with more than 142,000 infections reported Tuesday. But health experts warn that new highly transmissible variants and reopenings could make gains short lived.
- The seven-day average of new daily cases, which helps smooth out irregularities in data reporting, has been in decline for two weeks now. The 166,384 average new infections reported Tuesday was a figure not seen since early December, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
- Covid-19 hospitalizations have fallen more than 17% since Jan. 6, when a record 132,474 hospitalizations were reported, according to the Covid Tracking Project. A total of 108,957 people were hospitalized as of Tuesday. The decline has mainly been driven by an improvement in the South and Southwest of the country, which are “both turning a corner along with continued improvements in the Midwest,” said Vikas Parekh, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan.
- But two factors continue to concern epidemiologists and health experts: new more transmissible variants of the virus and the reopening of states in response to improving figures.
- California, which has gone through a prolonged and deadly surge, lifted regional stay-at-home orders on Monday, citing improving projections of intensive-care capacity in the state. The state instead returned to a tiered county-by-county system. New York, meanwhile, said it will start relaxing economic restrictions imposed after Thanksgiving.
- Variants in other countries have prompted governments to reimpose lockdowns and have led to large surges in infection rates, overwhelming hospitals.
- One year to the day since the first coronavirus case was diagnosed in Germany, new cases there continued to decline. The country registered 13,198 new confirmed infections on Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, down from 15,974 a week earlier.
- New rules forcing most companies to allow employees to work from home come into force across most of the country on Wednesday. Germany’s tight lockdown, with most shops and all schools closed, runs until Feb. 14.
- Case numbers also continue to fall in the U.K.—by more than 26% in the week to Tuesday compared with the previous week—but deaths remain high and the country passed 100,000 Covid-related deaths on Tuesday.
- Ireland, where the more infectious variant is now widespread, said Tuesday that it would extend its tight lockdown—schools, restaurants, bars and non-essential shops are closed—until March 5.
Administration to Buy Enough Doses to Vaccinate Most Americans by End of Summer – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- The Biden administration on Tuesday said it would boost the supply of coronavirus vaccines sent to states by about 16% for the next three weeks and will purchase enough additional doses to vaccinate most of the U.S. population with a two-dose regimen by the end of the summer.
- Senior administration officials said the federal government is working to purchase an additional 100 million doses each of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, increasing the total U.S. vaccine order by 50% to 600 million from 400 million.
- Officials said they expect the additional doses to be delivered over the summer.
- The purchases will provide enough supply to vaccinate 300 million Americans in a two-dose regimen over the summer. The vaccine is not approved for people under 16 years old.
- The Department of Health and Human Services will boost allocations to states next week to a minimum of 10 million doses a week, up from 8.6 million doses a week, for the next three weeks, a senior administration official said.
Microsoft Earnings Jump on Pandemic-Driven Cloud, Videogame Demand – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- Microsoft posted record quarterly sales underpinned by pandemic-fueled demand for videogames and accelerated adoption of its cloud-computing services during the health crisis.
- The software giant said its fiscal second-quarter net income rose more than 30% to $15.5 billion.
- Sales advanced 17% to $43.1 billion.
- Those figures beat Wall Street’s expectation of net income of $12.6 billion and sales of $40.2 billion, according to FactSet.
- Azure sales increased 50% in the most quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a 48% rise for the prior three-month period.
- Xbox content and services revenue increased 40% in the latest quarter, aided by the November release of two new gaming consoles, Xbox Series X and S, to battle Sony’s PlayStation 5. Overall gaming revenue was up 51%.
- Microsoft said revenue in the business segment that includes videogame and laptop activities rose to $15.1 billion, topping even the $14.6 billion its cloud-segment delivered.
- Microsoft saw continued strength in its Surface laptop business, with revenue rising 3% as the work-from-home period drags on. The increase, though, didn’t match the supercharged 37% sales gain in the prior quarter.
- Microsoft said even its advertising business, one of the few segments that lagged early in the pandemic, is showing signs of recovery. Search advertising revenue in the most recent quarter advanced 2% after suffering double-digit declines in the prior two periods.
Boeing to delay 777X again as it posts record annual loss – Reuters, 1/27/2021
- Boeing took a hefty $6.5 billion charge on its all-new 777X jetliner as it posted a record annual loss on Wednesday due to the coronavirus pandemic and the aftermath of a two-year safety crisis over its 737 MAX.
- Revenue fell 15% to $15.30 billion in the quarter.
- Boeing unveiled $8.3 billion in operating charges on Wednesday, including a $468 million charge for abnormal 737 production costs, $275 million over KC-46 aerial refueling tanker production issues, and $744 million linked to its 737 MAX settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over a fraud conspiracy charge.
- Boeing said it now expects the 777X, a larger version of the 777 mini-jumbo, to enter service by late 2023, delaying the jet’s entry for the third time, due to tougher certification requirements after the 737 MAX safety crisis and plummeting demand.
- The company’s net loss rose to $8.44 billion in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $1.01 billion a year earlier, taking its full-year loss to a record $11.94 billion.
- Boeing reaffirmed plans to hit a sharply-reduced production rate of 5 787s per month in March, when it will consolidate production at its South Carolina factory, a decision first reported by Reuters.
- Boeing, which has delivered some 40 737 MAXs from its stored inventory, is also sticking with plans to reach a production rate of 31 737 jets per month by the beginning of 2022, though at least one analyst expects that to slip to early 2023.
AMD sees strong 2021 on data center, gaming chips demand
- Advanced Micro Devices on Tuesday beat quarterly revenue estimates and forecast robust 2021 sales on strong demand for its chips used in PCs, data centers and gaming consoles from companies and customers adapting to remote working.
- AMD’s fourth-quarter revenue rose to $3.24 billion, beating analysts’ estimate of $3.03 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
- Revenue in the computing and graphics unit, where it supplies processors and graphics chips for PCs, was $1.96 billion versus analysts’ estimates of $1.8 billion, according to data from FactSet.
- In the company’s enterprise and semi-custom segment, which includes data center processor chips and gaming console chips, revenue was $1.28 billion, compared with analysts’ estimates of $1.24 billion.
- AMD said it expects first-quarter and full-year gross margins of 46% and 47% respectively, which were in line with Wall Street estimates but “a little underwhelming” given AMD’s booming revenue growth, Kinngai Chan of Summit Insights Group said.
- AMD forecast 2021 sales of $13.37 billion, above analysts’ estimates of $12.28 billion.
- The company projected first-quarter revenue to be about $3.2 billion, plus or minus $100 million, compared to analysts’ average estimate of $2.74 billion, according to Refinitiv.
Starbucks Sales Slide but Show Signs of Recovery in China – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- Starbucks said Chief Operating Officer Roz Brewer will leave to lead another publicly traded company, marking the departure of a prominent Black executive who helped revive sales during the coronavirus pandemic and worked to diversify the coffee giant’s staff.
- Total sales in the quarter fell 5% from the prior year to $6.7 billion. Starbucks attributed the decline to fewer customers, reduced hours and store closures related to the pandemic. Analysts polled by FactSet anticipated $6.9 billion in sales.
- Starbucks said Tuesday that global same-store sales fell 5% in its quarter ended in December from the same period a year earlier.
- Same-store sales in China increased 5% year over year in the latest quarter.
- Starbucks said it added 278 stores in its first quarter, up 4% from the previous year. The chain now has 32,938 stores globally.
- For the latest quarter, Starbucks reported adjusted earnings of 61 cents a share, beating analysts’ expectations of 55 cents a share. Earnings of 53 cents a share, on income of $622 million, were down from 74 cents in the same period last year, with Starbucks attributing the decrease to the pandemic.
- The company expects earnings of $2.42 to $2.62 a share for its full fiscal year, up slightly from previous guidance.
AT&T Books $15.5 Billion Charge on DirecTV Unit – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- AT&T booked a $15.5 billion charge on its pay-TV business, reflecting the damage cord-cutting has taken on its DirecTV satellite unit even as the company’s HBO Max streaming service’s growth ramped up.
- Revenue fell 2.4% to $45.7 billion.
- The last three months of the year saw a net gain of 800,000 postpaid phone subscribers, a metric closely watched by Wall Street.
- Revenue from AT&T’s traditional video unit, which includes U-verse and DirecTV services, fell 11% to $7.2 billion in the fourth quarter. The business ended the year with 17.2 million domestic connections, down from 20.4 million at the end of 2019.
- Revenue from AT&T’s WarnerMedia division fell 9.5% to $8.5 billion as the show-business side continued to wrestle with low box-office revenue and weak advertising revenue.
- The HBO business grew and ended the year approaching 42 million U.S. subscribers, a figure that includes older cable plans as well as the new online service.
- The online-only HBO Max service ended the year with 17 million activated accounts.
- Overall, AT&T reported a fourth-quarter loss of $13.89 billion, or $1.95 a share, compared with a profit of $2.39 billion, or 33 cents a share, a year earlier.
- The company projected stability for 2021, predicting core adjusted earnings in line with last year’s $3.18 per-share result and revenue growth around 1% with $26 billion of free cash flow.
- The company generated $27.5 billion of free cash flow in 2020, a figure executives highlighted as a sign of strength.
Texas Instruments sees strong first-quarter on electronics chip demand – Reuters, 1/27/2021
- Texas Instruments forecast current-quarter revenue above Wall Street estimates on Tuesday, expecting sales growth for a third straight quarter after two years of decline, buoyed by strong chip demand from the personal electronics market.
- Total revenue rose to $4.08 billion from $3.35 billion a year earlier, above Wall Street estimates of $3.6 billion.
- Chip sales to personal electronics market jumped 39%, driven by consumers splurging on laptops and tablets to aid remote work and learning.
- Net income rose to $1.69 billion, or $1.80 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $1.07 billion, or $1.12 per share, a year earlier.
- TI expects first-quarter revenue in a range of $3.79 billion to $4.11 billion, above analysts’ expectations of $3.59 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
General Dynamics profit misses as pandemic weighs on aerospace unit – Reuters, 1/27/2021
- Defense contractor General Dynamics missed Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit and revenue on Wednesday, as its aerospace unit delivered fewer Gulfstream jets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Sales in the company’s aerospace unit posted a 16.9% fall to $2.44 billion.
- Total revenue fell 2.7% to $10.48 billion.
- Gulfstream jet deliveries declined to 40 units from 44 a year ago.
- During the quarter, General Dynamics’ marine systems unit, which makes ships and submarines for the U.S. Navy, was awarded a $9.47 billion contract for the construction of Columbia class submarines, moving the U.S. Navy’s top procurement priority out of the early-construction phase.
- The shift to the construction phase for the first two Columbia class submarines added to General Dynamics’ backlog which sat at record-high $89.5 billion at the end of the year.
- Net earnings fell to $1 billion, or $3.49 per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, from $1.02 billion, or $3.51 per share, a year earlier.
Abbott profit beats on strong demand for COVID-19 tests – Reuters, 1/27/2021
- Abbott Laboratories forecast profit for the current year above Wall Street estimates after brisk sales of its COVID-19 test kits helped the company double its earnings and top Wall Street estimates.
- Fourth-quarter revenue was $10.7 billion, above the average analyst estimate of $9.94 billion.
- Sales at its diagnostics business soared nearly 110% to $4.35 billion in the fourth quarter, nearly half of which came from COVID-19 tests.
- Sales at its diabetes unit rose 29% on strong demand for its glucose monitoring device, FreeStyle Libre.
- However, demand for cardiac and neuromodulation devices was weak as people deferred elective surgical procedures due to the pandemic.
- Excluding items, Abbott earned $1.45 per share, beating estimates of $1.34 per share.
- The company forecast full-year adjusted earnings of $5 per share above analysts’ estimates of $4.37, reflecting a 35% rise from the prior year.
Vans sneaker maker’s revenue, profit view disappoints on pandemic hit – Reuters, 1/27/2021
- VF raised its full-year forecast for revenue and profit on Wednesday, but it came in below market estimates as the apparel maker struggles to bring in sales with the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering stores in some of its major markets.
- The Vans sneaker maker’s shares fell 8% in premarket trading as it posted a 5.8% drop in net revenue for the third quarter and said more than 60% of its stores were temporarily closed in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, with less than 10% of its outlets shut in North America.
- Its digital revenue jumped 53% but that was not enough to counterbalance weak in-store sales, as fresh restrictions in its key U.S. and Europe markets doused a short-lived sales rebound triggered by the lifting of earlier curbs.
- However, excluding items, VF earned 93 cents per share, above the 90-cent estimate.
- VF now expects fiscal 2021 revenue between $9.1 billion and $9.2 billion, with the midpoint below the Refinitiv IBES estimate of $9.19 billion, even as it pointed to an about $125 million revenue boost from its recent acquisition of Supreme.
- The owner of Timberland and The North Face brands also expects fiscal 2021 adjusted earnings per share of about $1.30, 6 cents below Wall Street expectations.
- The company had previously forecast 2021 revenue of at least $9 billion and per-share profit of at least $1.20.
Exchange operator Nasdaq beats profit estimates on trading strength – Reuters, 1/27/2021
- Exchange operator Nasdaq reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday, benefiting from a surge in trading volumes as the COVID-19 pandemic caused market volatility.
- Excluding transaction-based expenses, net revenue surged 22% to $788 million.
- Revenue from Nasdaq’s market services unit, its biggest business, jumped 29% to $291 million from a year earlier.
- The investment intelligence segment, the company’s biggest non-trading business, also posted a 27% growth in revenue to $247 million.
- Assets under management linked to Nasdaq indexes surged 54% to $359 billion at the end of the quarter, boosting the New York-based company’s licensing revenues.
- Net income rose 11% to $224 million, or $1.34 per share.
GameStop stock surge hits fourth day, hedge funds walk away – Reuters, 1/27/2021
- Shares of GameStop and AMC Entertainment Holdings soared for a fourth day running on Wednesday, forcing hedge funds to retreat from heavy losses and sparking calls for scrutiny of a social media-driven trading frenzy.
- Short-seller Citron, a target for some of the individual traders who have helped drive huge gains for a number of niche Wall Street stocks in the past week, said in a video post it had abandoned its bet on GameStop shares falling.
- Overall, short sellers in GameStop were down $5 billion on a mark-to-market, net-of-financing basis in 2021, which included $876 million of losses early Tuesday, according to analytics firm S3 Partners.
- With commentators and lawyers calling for scrutiny of the moves, Nasdaq chief Adena Friedman said exchanges and regulators needed to pay attention to the potential for “pump and dump” schemes driven by chatter on social media.
- GameStop’s stock has surged nearly 700% in the past two weeks, upping the struggling video retailer’s market value from $1.24 billion to more than $10 billion. BlackBerry Ltd is up 185% and on course for its best month ever.
- Along with AMC and Nokia Oyj, the two were again among the most heavily traded in pre-market deals, with Reddit discussion threads again humming with chatter about the stocks.
US ECONOMY & POLITICS
Demand for U.S. Durable Goods Eased in December – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- Growth in demand for long-lasting manufactured goods slowed in December, as the overall economic recovery lost momentum at the end of last year.
- New orders for durable goods—products designed to last at least three years—increased 0.2% to a seasonally adjusted $245.3 billion in December compared with November, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.
- Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected new orders to increase 0.8% in December, after an upwardly revised 1.2% rise the previous month.
- New orders for nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft—or so-called core capital goods orders, a closely watched proxy for business investment—increased 0.6% in December from the previous month, to $71.8 billion. The gain was also smaller than in recent months.
Fed Likely to Keep Interest Rates Near Zero as Economy Stumbles – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- Federal Reserve officials are likely to acknowledge recent signs of economic weakening but keep policy on hold at a meeting that concludes Wednesday, choosing to wait and see if business activity picks up.
- The Fed has set short-term interest rates near zero, launched a bond-purchase program of $120 billion a month, and said it would keep stimulative measures in place until its goals of lower unemployment and 2% inflation are achieved.
- Rebuilding the economy fully, after the permanent loss of many businesses and jobs, will take additional time, officials have said.
- “The economy is far from our goals,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said earlier this month at a Princeton University forum. Now isn’t the time to be pulling back from its policies, he added.
Job Growth in the South Bucks Losses in Rest of U.S. – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- The South is leading the U.S. labor market’s recovery from the pandemic’s initial shock as the only major region with continued payroll growth at the end of last year while the rest of the country lost jobs.
- Texas and Georgia gained the most jobs in December, adding a seasonally adjusted 64,200 and 44,700 jobs, respectively.
- In contrast, payrolls in the Midwest, West and Northeast fell last month, when the nation’s total payrolls slipped by 140,000 for the first decline in seven months.
- In those parts of the country, a surge in virus infections, related restrictions and winter weather prompted steep job cuts in leisure and hospitality industries, which includes restaurants. In the South, those jobs held nearly steady.
Biden to Lift Some Curbs on Abortion Funding, Reopen ACA Enrollment – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- President Biden on Thursday will begin shaping his health-care agenda by lifting certain restrictions on abortion funding and relaunching Affordable Care Act insurance sign-ups, moving swiftly to reassemble components of the health law weakened by the former Trump administration, according to a person familiar with the planning.
- Mr. Biden will sign executive orders directing the reopening of enrollment on the ACA’s federal exchanges and rescinding a Trump administration policy that blocked federal funds to nongovernmental agencies that provide abortion counseling or referrals, the person said.
- Mr. Biden will also initiate a review of a Trump administration decision that cut off federal funding for family-planning organizations such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the person said.
- While Mr. Biden agreed with some of Mr. Trump’s health-care initiatives, such as ending surprise medical billings and some antitrust actions to curb market concentration in the industry, the actions coming Thursday are aimed at unraveling his predecessor’s stamp on health care.
U.S. B-52 Bomber Flies Over Persian Gulf, in Show of Force Against Iran – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- Al-Udeid Air Base, QATAR—The Pentagon sent a B-52 bomber across the Persian Gulf region on Tuesday, the sixth such sortie since last fall, in a show of deterrence to Iran.
- The B-52H Stratofortress, a long range heavy bomber, flew from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana on Tuesday and was expected to make a continuous flight across Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and down the eastern Saudi coastline near the United Arab Emirates and Qatar before returning to the U.S., a senior military official said.
- The U.S. has been on guard for the last couple of months and has been worried about the threat posed by Iran, particularly leading up to the presidential inauguration Jan. 20, multiple officials have said.
EUROPE & WORLD
Jack Ma’s Ant Plans Major Revamp in Response to Chinese Pressure – Wall Street Journal, 1/27/2021
- Ant Group is planning to turn itself into a financial holding company overseen by China’s central bank, responding to pressure to fall fully in line with financial regulations, according to people familiar with the matter.
- The plan represents a significant turnaround by a digital-payments juggernaut that has in recent years tried to shed its image as a financial-services provider and fashion itself as an internet-technology company, which helped it command lofty valuations.
- The restructuring plan, still under deliberation, could be finalized before China goes on a weeklong Lunar New Year holiday in mid-February, people familiar with the matter said.
- Pan Gongsheng, a PBOC deputy governor, said regulators have laid out five demands for Ant, telling it to return to its payment roots, safeguard personal data in its credit business, set up a financial holding company, improve corporate governance and exercise more disciplines in its securities and asset-management businesses.
LG Chem fourth-quarter profit misses expectations but positive on Tesla battery supplier – Reuters, 1/27/2021
- South Korea’s LG Chem fourth quarter 2020 profits missed expectations on Wednesday but the company expects surging revenue from its battery unit that supplies Tesla Inc to set the stage for a strong 2021.
- LG Chem’s overall fourth-quarter revenue rose 20% to 8.9 trillion won, the company said in a regulatory filing.
- In the fourth quarter, the petrochemical business unit reported operating profit of 569 billion won, down from the third quarter’s 722 billion won but up from 316 billion won a year earlier.
- The maker of chemicals and batteries, whose wholly-owned battery subsidiary LG Energy Solution supplies Tesla, posted an operating profit of 674 billion won ($610.20 million).
- With the launches of new electric cars and increased orders for its energy storage system batteries, LG Energy Solution expects revenue to grow more than 50% in 2021 from a year earlier, aiming to ramp up annual capacity to 155 gigawatt-hours of batteries by the of the year, up about 30% from a year earlier, the unit’s Senior Vice President Chang Seung-se said in a call with analysts.
LG Display reports stronger profit on iPhone demand, rising panel prices – Reuters, 1/27/2021
- South Korea’s LG Display reported its highest quarterly profit in over three years on Wednesday, with help from increased shipments of Apple’s new iPhones.
- Revenue rose 16% to 7.5 trillion won, LG Display said in a regulatory filing.
- The Apple supplier posted an operating profit of 685 billion won ($622 million) in the fourth quarter of 2020, compared with a loss of 422 billion won in the same period a year earlier.
- “As the global work-from-home situation continued in the fourth quarter, demand for TV and IT products remained strong,” LG Display said in a statement.
Dutch Rioters Clash with Police for Third Night Over Covid-19 Curfew – Wall Street Journal, 1/26/2021
- A third night of riots gripped several large Dutch cities on Monday after protests against a new curfew to curb the spread of coronavirus turned violent, further complicating the Covid-19 crisis management by a beleaguered government.
- Some 150 people were arrested and one policeman was injured in Monday’s clashes, in addition to 250 arrests made Sunday, authorities said.
- Looters raided shops, set cars ablaze and threw bicycles onto bonfires, pelting riot police with stones and fireworks in Rotterdam, Amsterdam, the Hague and several other cities.
- Thomas Edison was granted a patent for his incandescent light. (1880)
- The U.S. Air Force started atomic testing in the Nevada desert. (1951)
- Vietnam War peace accords were signed in Paris. (1973)