US FINANCIAL MARKET
Stocks Drop as Investors Seek Clarity on Ukraine – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- U.S. stocks resumed their slide and crude oil rallied on Wednesday, with investors squeezed between the latest readings on inflation, the economy and the Ukraine.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.6%, the S&P 500 lost 0.6% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.9% after breaking a three-session losing streak on Tuesday.
- Moving in the opposite direction were oil prices, rising again after breaking a winning-streak on Tuesday.
- Among individual stocks, ViacomCBS fell 21% and social-gaming company Roblox fell 24% after both posted earnings reports that missed analysts’ forecasts.
- Airbnb shares rose 5.3% after the company posted record revenue, while Kraft Heinz rose 4.7% after its profit and sales beat expectations.
- Companies set to post earnings after markets close include Cisco Systems, American International Group and Nvidia.
- Fresh data Wednesday showed U.S. retail sales rose by a seasonally adjusted 3.8% in January from December, more than economists had expected.
- These data aren’t adjusted for inflation, meaning that increased retail sales can reflect higher prices, rather than more purchases.
- In bond markets, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note ticked down to 2.035% from 2.044% Tuesday. Yields fall when prices rise.
- Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 was down less than 0.1%. Major indexes in Asia closed higher.
- Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 2.2%, and South Korea’s Kospi gained 2%.
- Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 1.5%, and mainland China’s Shanghai Composite rose 0.6%.
Shopify Plummets Most Since 2020 on Slowing Growth Outlook – Bloomberg, 2/16/2022
- Shopify plunged the most in almost two years after giving a weaker outlook for growth this year, as online spending resets after the Covid-19 induced boom and consumers face higher inflation.
- Revenue increased 41% to $1.38 billion. Analysts, on average, projected $1.34 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
- Gross merchandise volume, the value of merchant’s sales flowing through Shopify’s platform, increased 32% in the fourth quarter from a year earlier to $54.1 billion. Analysts, on average, estimated $52.6 billion.
- Profit, excluding some items, was $1.36 a share, compared with analysts’ average estimate of $1.26.
- In its outlook for this year, Shopify also said new contract terms with apps and theme developers that would cause a “headwind” to revenue from its store subscription plans in the first half.
- “The Covid-triggered acceleration of ecommerce that spilled into the first half of 2021 in the form of lockdowns and government stimulus will be absent from 2022,” the Canadian ecommerce giant said in a statement on Wednesday. “There is caution around inflation and consumer spend near term, for the full year.”
- As a result, Shopify said full year revenue growth will be lower than the 57% increase in 2021.
- The U.S.-traded shares tumbled as much as 16% as the market opened in New York. It was the biggest intraday decline since March 2020.
Upstart Stock Surges on Strong Outlook and Buyback Plans – Barron’s, 2/16/2022
- Shares of Upstart Holdings were surging Wednesday after the artificial-intelligence lending company reported fourth-quarter results that smashed Wall Street estimates and it issued an outlook ahead of consensus expectations.
- Revenue in the quarter was $304.8 million, higher than year-earlier revenue of $86.7 million, and higher than analysts’ estimates of $262.9 million.
- Upstart reported fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of 89 cents a share, well above forecasts of 51 cents.
- Upstart said it expects first-quarter revenue of $295 million to $305 million and adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) of $56 million to $58 million.
- Analysts surveyed by FactSet were expecting revenue of $258.3 million and adjusted EBITDA of $53 million.
- The company said it expects revenue for the year of $1.4 billion vs. expectations of $1.2 billion.
Roblox Tumbles Most Ever as Results Take a Hit After Pandemic – Bloomberg, 2/16/2022
- Roblox shares tumbled the most ever on Wednesday morning after the video game platform reported bookings that missed analysts’ estimates in the fourth quarter, reflecting a retreat from the pandemic-inspired boost over the last two years.
- Bookings, which include revenue and deferred revenue and other adjustments, rose 20% from a year earlier to $770.1 million, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
- Analysts were estimating $786.2 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
- Average daily active users increased 33% to 49.5 million, slightly less than the 50.5 million analysts were expecting.
- Much of that growth comes from countries in Asia, Latin America and Europe.
- And, in a shift, more than half of Roblox’s user base is now over age 13.
- In 2021, users spent more than 1 million hours inside 1,900 of its “experiences,” the company said.
Airbnb Sees Number of Bookings in First-Quarter Exceeding Pre-Pandemic Levels for First Time – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- Airbnb posted record revenue last year, becoming one of the biggest beneficiaries of a battered travel industry as consumers sought suburban rentals, and projected continued growth as it emerges from the pandemic.
- Airbnb said Tuesday that fourth-quarter revenue through December was up 78% year-over-year at $1.53 billion.
- Stays of 28 days or more made up 22% of bookings in the fourth quarter, compared with 16% in the corresponding 2019 quarter.
- Nearly half of bookings made during the fourth quarter were for a week or more.
- Airbnb said cross-border travel in the fourth quarter had recovered to 76% of 2019 levels.
- The company posted its second consecutive quarterly profit of $55 million, compared with a loss of $3.9 billion in the year-earlier period, when costs tied to its initial public offering weighed on its bottom line.
- Airbnb said it expects first-quarter revenue of as much as $1.48 billion. That is above the average estimate of $1.22 billion from analysts polled by FactSet and compares with $887 million in the same quarter of 2021.
Hilton results top estimates as holiday travel boosts hotel occupancy – Reuters, 2/16/2022
- Hilton Worldwide Holdings topped analyst estimates for quarterly profit and revenue on Wednesday, as higher vaccinations and a rebound in travel demand during the holiday period boosted occupancy rates at its hotels.
- Excluding items, Hilton earned 72 cents per share compared with Refinitv IBES estimates of 70 cents per share, while fourth-quarter revenue nearly doubled to $1.84 billion compared to estimates of $1.83 billion.
- Hilton reported comparable RevPAR (revenue per available room) of $84.14 for the fourth quarter, as occupancy rates across its hotels rose to 61.3% from 20.7% a year earlier.
- Occupancy at Hilton’s U.S. and Canada region nearly tripled to 63.3% in the quarter.
- The company reported net income attributable to shareholders of $147 million, or 52 cents per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared to a net loss of $224 million, or 81 cents per share, a year earlier.
Marriott results top estimates as vaccinations, holiday traffic boost hotel occupancy – Reuters, 2/16/2022
- Marriott International’s fourth-quarter results topped Wall Street estimates, as increasing vaccination rates and holiday-season traffic boosted occupancy rates across its hotels, sending the company’s shares up over 3% in premarket trade.
- The company’s revenue more than doubled to $4.45 billion in three months ended Dec. 31, beating analyst estimates of $3.99 billion.
- Occupancy in the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton owner’s key U.S. and Canada region stood at 60% in the fourth quarter, compared with 35.1% a year earlier.
- The company reported quarterly adjusted net income per share of $1.30, topping analyst estimates of $1.00 per share.
Kraft Heinz’s Sales Fall, But Beat Estimates – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- Kraft Heinz reported lower revenue that beat expectations in the latest quarter, as it raised prices for its products amid inflationary pressures.
- The maker of food products such as Heinz Tomato Ketchup and Kraft Mac and Cheese on Wednesday said net sales slipped to $6.71 billion from $6.94 billion in the year-earlier quarter, but came in ahead of analysts’ expectations of $6.6 billion.
- Kraft Heinz raised its prices in the quarter by 3.8 percentage points from the year-ago quarter, due to inflation in the food-service and retail channels.
- The food maker posted a net loss attributable to shareholders of $257 million for the fourth quarter, compared with a profit of $1.03 billion in the same period a year earlier.
- Losses were 21 cents a share, compared with earnings of 84 cents a share in the prior year.
- Kraft Heinz said the decrease was mostly due to a noncash impairment of $1.3 billion in the quarter related to the Kraft brand following the closing of the sale of some of its assets in its cheese businesses as well as the granting of licenses for its Kraft, Velveeta and Philadelphia brands.
ViacomCBS Renames Itself Paramount – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- ViacomCBS said it is renaming itself Paramount Global and will refer to itself as Paramount, underscoring the company’s emphasis on its Paramount+ streaming service and evoking the heritage of its roughly century-old film studio.
- Revenue rose 16% to $8 billion, boosted by strong streaming-subscriber growth.
- ViacomCBS said Tuesday that Paramount+, its flagship streaming service, added 7.3 million subscribers in the latest quarter to reach 32.8 million total subscribers.
- ViacomCBS, which also has streaming services for Showtime and BET as well as the kids-oriented service Noggin, said it now has 56 million total streaming subscribers.
- Overall, the company said net profit rose to $2.06 billion, or $3.11 a share, from $810 million, or $1.31 a share, a year earlier.
- ViacomCBS said it spent more than $14.7 billion on programming in 2021.
- That’s less than Disney but more than rivals including AT&T, Amazon.com and Apple, according to projections from research firm Ampere Analysis.
Barrick Gold announces $1 billion buyback as quarterly earnings jump – Reuters, 2/16/2022
- Barrick Gold, on Wednesday announced a share buyback of up to $1 billion as the gold miner’s fourth-quarter results beat analysts’ estimates thanks to a lower than expected tax quarter and strong production at its Nevada mines.
- Over the year, Barrick’s gold production fell by 6.8% to 4.437 million ounces of gold from 4.76 million ounces in 2020.
- Copper production was also lower in 2021, at 415 million pounds compared to 457 million pounds in 2020.
- All-in sustaining costs (AISC) – a measure of total cost of mining – at Barrick’s copper mines jumped by 17.5% to $2.62 per pound in 2021 from $2.23 per pound in 2020. Costs at Barrick’s gold operations rose by 6.1% to $1,026 per ounce from $967 per ounce in 2020.
- Net earnings more than doubled from the previous quarter to $726 million, while adjusted earnings per share came in at $0.35, beating analysts’ expectations of $0.30.
- Barrick said it expected all-in sustaining costs to climb again to between $1,040 and $1,120 per ounce of gold in 2022, with cash costs between $730 and $790 per ounce.
Blackstone to Buy Preferred Apartment Communities in $5.8 Billion Deal – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- Blackstone has agreed to buy rental apartment owner Preferred Apartment Communities in a $5.8 billion deal that demonstrates the strong investor demand for multifamily properties in Sunbelt states.
- Atlanta-based Preferred Apartment owns over 40 rental apartment properties with about 12,000 units in states including Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee. Blackstone’s all-cash purchase values the real-estate investment trust at $25 per share, according to the companies.
- Preferred Apartment also owns 54 shopping centers anchored by grocery stores. About 70% of the deal’s value is in its rental apartments.
- Multifamily properties particularly in high-growth Sunbelt states have been one of the hottest commercial property types in recent years because businesses have been relocating to those regions.
- Owners have been able to raise rents well above the inflation rate throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Google Plans to Curtail Cross-App Tracking on Android Phones – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- Google plans to adopt new privacy restrictions to curtail tracking across apps on Android smartphones, following Apple in putting restraints on an advertising industry that has covertly collected data across billions of mobile devices.
- Google’s plans for Android could hasten an end to more than a decade of advertising practices across smartphones in which companies including Meta Platforms’ Facebook layered their code into hundreds of thousands of apps to track consumer behavior.
- Apple’s changes, which went into effect last year, have already upended the digital-ad industry and contributed to a wipeout of more than $300 billion from Meta’s market value.
- Google said Wednesday that it plans to develop more privacy-focused replacements for the alphanumeric identifiers associated with individual smartphones that some apps use to gather and share information about users.
- The Alphabet unit said it plans to keep supporting current smartphone identifiers for at least the next two years and to give the industry substantial notice before any changes. It said it plans to work with the industry to develop the replacements.
Mark Zuckerberg Wants His Employees to Be Known as ‘Metamates’ – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- Meta Platforms’ employees are now “metamates.”
- In a staffwide note shared online Tuesday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg offered his vision for corporate culture at Meta Platforms, his recently rebranded company that he says will “build awesome things,” “live in the future” and be run by employees whom he called metamates.
- “Meta, Metamates, Me is about being good stewards of our company and mission,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in his staff memo, which he posted on his Facebook page. “It’s about the sense of responsibility we have for our collective success and to each other as teammates. It’s about taking care of our company and each other.”
- Facebook also said Tuesday that it was changing the name of its “News Feed” feature to “Feed.”
US ECONOMY & POLITICS
U.S. Retail Sales Grew by 3.8% in January – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- U.S. shoppers sharply boosted retail spending last month as inflation surged to a 40-year high and the Omicron wave of Covid-19 eased.
- Sales at retail stores, online and restaurants rose by seasonally adjusted 3.8% in January from the prior month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.
- The jump in retail spending last month also represented a rebound from December, when sales fell by a revised 2.5%.
- Increased spending was broad-based, with large gains for purchases of vehicles, furniture and building materials.
- Online sales also rose sharply.
- Restaurant and bar receipts dropped last month as consumers limited in-person services during the latest Covid outbreak.
- Unlike other economic-data reports produced by the U.S. government, retail sales aren’t adjusted for inflation.
- That means higher retail-sales figures can reflect higher prices rather than more purchases.
U.S. Factory Output Rises as Firms Navigate Supply Constraints – Bloomberg, 2/16/2022
- Production at U.S. factories rose modestly in January, suggesting manufacturers are gradually working through pandemic-related shortages of materials and labor that hobbled output in the prior month.
- The 0.2% increase followed a revised 0.1% decline in December, Federal Reserve data showed Wednesday.
- Total industrial production, which also includes mining and utility output, jumped 1.4% in January, the most in three months, on a surge in heating demand.
- Output at utilities surged a record 9.9% in January due to colder-than-usual temperatures, the Fed said.
- Capacity utilization at factories edged up in January to 77.3%, the Fed’s report showed.
- Total industrial capacity increased to 77.6%, the highest since 2019.
Homebuilder Sentiment in U.S. Drops to Lowest Since October – Bloomberg, 2/16/2022
- Confidence among U.S. homebuilders dropped to a four-month low in February as higher labor and supply costs, combined with rising interest rates, hurt affordability and the outlook for sales.
- A gauge of builder sentiment decreased to 82 from a January reading of 83, National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo data showed Tuesday. The figure was in line with the median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists.
- The component assessing sales expectations for the next six months fell to 80, the lowest since June, while a gauge of prospective buyer traffic decreased to 65, the lowest since October. A measure of current single-family home sales rose slightly.
U.S. business inventories increase solidly in December – Reuters, 2/16/2022
- U.S. business inventories increased strongly in December, with motor vehicle stocks accelerating, a sign that the worst of the global semiconductor shortage was probably behind.
- Business inventories increased 2.1% after rising 1.5% in November, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday.
- Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product.
- December’s increase was in line with economists’ expectations.
- Inventories shot up 10.5% on a year-on-year basis in December.
- Retail inventories surged 4.2% in December, instead of 4.4% as estimated in an advance report published last month.
- That followed a 2.0% increase in November.
- Motor vehicle inventories accelerated 6.8% as estimated last month. They increased 4.2% in November.
- Retail inventories excluding autos, which go into the calculation of GDP, jumped 3.3%, rather than 3.6% as estimated last month.
- Inventory investment increased at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of $173.5 billion in the fourth quarter, the second-largest quarterly increase on record.
- Business sales fell 0.7% in December after increasing 1.1% in November.
- At December’s sales pace, it would take 1.29 months for businesses to clear shelves, up from 1.25 months in November.
U.S. import prices rebound sharply in January – Reuters, 2/16/2022
- U.S. import prices increased by the most in nearly 11 years in January amid a jump the cost of energy products and strained supply chains, the latest indication that high inflation could persist for a while.
- Import prices increased 2.0% last month, the largest rise since April 2011, after declining 0.4% in December, the Labor Department said on Wednesday. In the 12 months through January, prices accelerated 10.8% after rising 10.2% in December.
- Imported fuel prices shot up 9.3% last month after decreasing 8.3% in December.
- Petroleum prices surged 9.5%, while the cost of imported food accelerated 3.6%.
- Excluding fuel and food, import prices rose 1.1%.
- These so-called core import prices gained 0.6% in December. They increased 6.2% on a year-on-year basis in January.
- The report also showed export prices advanced 2.9% in January after dropping 1.6% in December.
- Prices for agricultural exports rose 3.0%. Nonagricultural export prices increased 2.9%.
- Export prices increased 15.1% year-on-year in January. That followed a 14.8% advance in December.
U.S. mortgage interest rates top 4% for first time since 2019 – Reuters, 2/16/2022
- The interest rate on the most popular U.S. home loan surged by the most in nearly two years last week, shooting above the 4% level for the first time since 2019 as financial markets anticipate that the Federal Reserve will respond to the highest inflation in a generation with an aggressive run of rate hikes.
- The Mortgage Bankers Association on Wednesday said its weekly measure of the average contract rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage climbed to 4.05% in the week ended Feb. 11 from 3.83% a week earlier.
- That was the highest since October 2019 and the largest weekly increase since March 2020 when the onset of the coronavirus pandemic was roiling financial markets.
- Overall loan application volumes fell 5.4% last week and purchase applications dropped 1.2%.
California Gasoline Prices Hit Record High as Crude Oil Soars – Bloomberg, 2/16/2022
- California gasoline prices have never been higher, posing fresh challenges for U.S. President Joe Biden who less than a week ago vowed to “work like the devil” to alleviate pain at the pump for consumers.
- Average retail prices for regular gasoline in the Golden State rose to $4.719 per gallon on Wednesday, topping the previous record of $4.713 per gallon reached on Nov. 27, according to AAA.
- That’s more than a dollar higher than the national average, which is currently $3.514 per gallon, the most expensive since July 2014.
- Meanwhile, West Texas Intermediate surged above $95 per barrel on Monday for the first time since 2014 as geopolitical tensions escalated amid low global supply.
U.S. Faults China for Failing to Meet Purchase Targets Under 2020 Trade Deal – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- The Biden administration faulted China for failing to meet its commitments to purchase U.S. goods under the 2020 trade deal, and said it was prepared to take further action to level the competitive playing field with Beijing.
- China has “fallen far short of implementing its commitments to purchase U.S. goods and services in 2020 and 2021,” the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a report to Congress.
- The assessment of the shortfall came in a report to Congress on China’s compliance with its international trade obligations and put forth some of the administration’s most detailed thinking on China yet.
- The USTR said it would continue pressing China to fulfill its commitments under the deal. China missed its goals for purchasing U.S. agriculture, energy products and manufactured goods by well over $100 billion during 2020 and 2021.
EUROPE & WORLD
Russia Is Continuing to Build Up Forces Near Ukraine, NATO Chief Says – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- Russia is continuing its military buildup around Ukraine, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s secretary-general said, and Kyiv put its forces on alert even as Moscow announced that it had begun drawing down some of its troops and released footage of tanks and armored personnel carriers departing Crimea.
- On Wednesday, the day on which some U.S. intelligence officials had said a Russian invasion was likely to occur, Ukrainians rallied across the country in a display of solidarity and defiance, raising the national flag and singing the anthem in morning ceremonies.
- The country was rattled by a cyberattack the previous day that targeted the Ministry of Defense and two of its biggest banks, temporarily disrupting payments and showing zero balances on accounts.
- Some 130,000 Russian troops have gathered near Ukraine, including some 30,000 for military drills in Belarus, in recent weeks, prompting the U.S. to shut down its embassy in Kyiv and to evacuate American diplomats and military personnel.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin said after meeting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday that he had ordered “a partial troop withdrawal” and that he is open to continuing talks with the West about Russia’s security demands and the future of Ukraine.
- On Wednesday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said that some of these units had begun leaving Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine and annexed in 2014, for their permanent bases.
- Some of these bases aren’t far from Ukraine, which means that the redeployed troops will continue to pose a threat.
Inflation Hits 5.1% in Canada, Increasing Rate-Hike Pressure – Bloomberg, 2/16/2022
- Canadian consumer price inflation accelerated to a new three-decade high in January, adding to pressure on the Bank of Canada to start raising interest rates as early as March 2.
- Annual inflation was 5.1% last month, up from 4.8% in December, Statistics Canada reported on Wednesday in Ottawa. Economists were anticipating inflation would be unchanged in January.
- The average of the central bank’s core measures — often seen as a better indicator of underlying price pressures — rose to 3.2%, also the highest since 1991.
- The numbers, however, show broad price pressures. Shelter costs rose 6.2% in January, the fastest pace since February 1990, while prices for food purchased from stores rose 6.5%, the largest yearly increase since May 2009.
- Inflation has now exceeded the central bank’s 1% to 3% control range for 10 straight months as global supply chain bottlenecks and labor shortages push up prices. Since Canada introduced inflation targeting in the early 1990s, the inflation rate has averaged about 1.8%.
China Inflation Eases as Economy Could Use a Boost – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- China’s factory-gate inflation eased and consumer price growth slowed, giving Beijing room to stimulate growth at a time when more major economies are looking to tighten policy to curb rising prices.
- The producer-price index, a gauge of wholesale prices charged by manufacturers, rose 9.1% in January from a year earlier, down from December’s 10.3%, National Bureau of Statistics data published on Wednesday show.
- The producer-price index eased in recent months after hitting a 26-year high in October, when it rose by 13.5% from a year earlier.
- Prices paid by consumers rose at a slower pace in January, with the Consumer Price Index edging up by 0.9%, compared with 1.5% in December.
- Core consumer inflation, which strips out food and energy costs, rose 1.2% in January, unchanged from December.
Rise in U.K. Inflation Leaves Central Bank Caught Between Growth and Rising Prices – Wall Street Journal, 2/16/2022
- Inflation in the U.K. rose at its fastest annual rate in nearly three decades last month, keeping up the pressure on the Bank of England to raise its benchmark interest rate again.
- Consumer prices in the U.K. increased 5.5% in January compared with a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday—the highest since March 1992. In December, consumer prices rose 5.4% year-over-year. Clothing and footwear largely contributed to the increase in January, coming on top of rising costs of some household goods and rent.
- In the U.K., inflation is on course to peak above 7% in April, according to the BOE, when higher wholesale gas prices are passed on to U.K. consumers.
- The BOE expects annual inflation to recede to 5% by the start of 2023.
- U.S. frigate Philadelphia, captured and held by Barbary pirates at Tripoli during the Tripolitan War, was set fire to and destroyed by a small group of men led by Stephen Decatur. (1804)
- The tomb of King Tutankhamen, discovered in 1922, was opened. (1923)
- Fidel Castro became the leader of Cuba after having ousted the right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista. (1959)
- Turkish commandos captured Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan in Kenya, sparking seizures of embassies in Europe by Kurds. (1999)