US FINANCIAL MARKET
Stocks Rise, But on Track to Erase August’s Gains – Wall Street Journal, 8/20/2021
- U.S. stocks edged higher Friday, but headed toward weekly losses after a bumpy stretch of trading.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose about 120 points, or 0.4%, to 34965 shortly after the opening bell.
- The S&P 500 added 0.5%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite advanced 0.7%.
- Despite Friday’s moves, all three indices are headed for weekly declines, weighed down by steep losses among shares of economically sensitive companies like banks, materials companies and energy producers.
- Stocks have been knocked back this week by fears that an uptick in Covid-19 infections and a slowdown in China’s growth could impede the economic recovery.
- New lockdowns to contain the coronavirus could put further pressure on already shaky supply chains.
- Worries about rising inflation levels and the Federal Reserve’s signals that it will scale back some of its easy money policies have also cut into investors’ appetite for riskier assets, analysts say.
- U.S. crude oil slipped 1.2% to $62.71 a barrel.
- Oil prices have been stung this week by the strengthening of the dollar, which tends to make the commodity more expensive to holders of other currencies.
- Elsewhere, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 added less than 0.1%.
- Despite stabilizing Friday, the benchmark is on track for its worst weekly performance since February.
- China’s Shanghai Composite closed down 1.1% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng contracted 1.8%, capping off a tumultuous week for stocks in both markets.
- The selloff in Asia this week was sparked by regulators in the country stepping up their scrutiny of internet-technology companies. Several state-media commentaries and articles have also suggested that Chinese regulators plan to get tough on more industries.
Deere lifts 2021 forecast on solid demand for farm, construction equipment – Reuters, 8/20/2021
- Deere on Friday raised its full-year earnings forecast after quarterly profit topped Wall Street estimates on the back of strong demand for farm and construction equipment.
- Equipment sales rose 32% year-on-year to about $10.4 billion.
- Earnings for the third quarter came in at $5.32 per share, up from $2.57 per share ago.
- Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv, on average, expected the company to post a profit of $4.55 per share.
- The world’s largest farm equipment manufacturer now expects net income in fiscal 2021 to be between $5.7 billion and $5.9 billion, up from a range of $5.3 billion and $5.7 billion forecast in May.
- This is the third upgrade in the company’s earnings estimate in seven months.
Elon Musk Doubles Down on Artificial Intelligence at Tesla Amid Scrutiny of Autopilot – Wall Street Journal, 8/20/2021
- Elon Musk doubled down on Tesla’s embrace of artificial intelligence after a week of intensifying scrutiny of the advanced driver-assistance features sold by the electric-vehicle maker.
- Mr. Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said Tesla would build a robot in a human form that could perform repetitive tasks, with a prototype likely to be ready next year.
- It would draw on some of the technology Tesla has developed for vehicles, he said Thursday during an event in Palo Alto, Calif., around artificial intelligence, or technology designed to mimic the way humans think.
- “In the future, physical work will be a choice,” Mr. Musk said, adding that long-term, such a robot could make it necessary to provide a universal basic income, or a stipend to people without strings attached.
OnlyFans to Ban Content Featuring ‘Sexually Explicit Conduct’ – Wall Street Journal, 8/20/2021
- OnlyFans, a social-media platform whose popularity was built on viewers’ subscriptions to adult content, is planning to ban sex videos.
- OnlyFans said Thursday that starting Oct. 1, it will prohibit content that features “sexually-explicit conduct” but it will allow creators to post nudity.
- The platform, owned by closely held London-based Fenix International, said the changes are to comply with the requests of banking partners and payment processors.
- The pandemic also accelerated the platform’s growth as people stuck at home turned to their devices for entertainment, Mr. Stokely has said. OnlyFans has 130 million users and more than 2 million creators.
- On OnlyFans, creators set the prices they charge their subscribers.
- OnlyFans keeps 20% of the subscription revenue that creators earn on its platform and gives them 80%.
- The company said creators have collectively earned more than $5 billion on OnlyFans.
T-Mobile probe into breach finds more customers hit, tally now at 53 mln – Reuters, 8/20/2021
- T-Mobile said on Friday an ongoing investigation into a data breach revealed that hackers accessed personal information of an additional 5.3 million customers, bringing the total number of people affected to more than 53 million.
- The third-largest U.S. wireless carrier said earlier this week that personal data of more than 40 million former and prospective customers was stolen along with data from 7.8 million existing T-Mobile wireless customers.
- In its latest update, which comes days after the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened an investigation into the breach, T-Mobile revealed it had identified 5.3 million additional current wireless subscribers who were impacted by the breach as well as 667,000 more accounts of former customers.
- The data includes addresses, dates of birth and phone numbers of customers, the company said, adding that it had no indication that the accessed data contained financial information such as credit card or other payment data.
US ECONOMY & POLITICS
Fed’s Kaplan says watching delta, may need to adjust views – Reuters, 8/20/2021
- Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan said on Friday he was watching carefully for any economic impact from the Delta variant of the coronavirus and might need to adjust his views on policy “somewhat” should it slow economic growth materially.
- “It’s unfolding rapidly,” Kaplan told Fox Business Network. Kaplan has previously said he would like the Fed to begin tapering its asset purchases in October.
- “So far it’s not having a material effect” on consumer activity like dining out, he said, but “it is having an effect in delaying return to office, it’s affecting the ability to hire workers because of fear of infection,” and may be affecting production output, he said.
Internal State Department Cable Warned of Kabul Collapse – Wall Street Journal, 8/20/2021
- An internal State Department memo last month warned top agency officials of the potential collapse of Kabul soon after the U.S.’s Aug. 31 troop withdrawal deadline in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. official and a person familiar with the document.
- The classified cable represents the clearest evidence yet that the administration had been warned by its own officials on the ground that the Taliban’s advance was imminent and Afghanistan’s military may be unable to stop it.
- The cable, sent via the State Department’s confidential dissent channel, warned of rapid territorial gains by the Taliban and the subsequent collapse of Afghan security forces, and offered recommendations on ways to mitigate the crisis and speed up an evacuation, the two people said.
- The cable, dated July 13, also called for the State Department to use tougher language in describing the atrocities being committed by the Taliban, one of the people said.
Three Vaccinated Senators Have Tested Positive for Covid-19 – Wall Street Journal, 8/20/2021
- Three vaccinated U.S. senators said Thursday they had tested positive for Covid-19 and were all experiencing mild symptoms.
- Sens. Angus King (I., Maine), Roger Wicker (R., Miss.) and John Hickenlooper (D., Colo.) said that they were experiencing breakthrough Covid-19 cases, despite having been vaccinated earlier.
- A handful of breakthrough Covid-19 cases have recently surfaced in the U.S. Capitol, as the highly transmissible Delta variant has surged across the country.
- Earlier this month, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) tested positive for Covid-19.
- He too was vaccinated.
EUROPE & WORLD
China Passes One of the World’s Strictest Data-Privacy Laws – Wall Street Journal, 8/20/2021
- China has approved a sweeping privacy law that will curb data collection by technology companies, but that policy analysts say is unlikely to limit the state’s widespread use of surveillance.
- China’s top legislative body, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, passed the Personal Information Protection Law at a meeting in Beijing on Friday, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency.
- The national privacy law, China’s first, closely resembles the world’s most robust framework for online privacy protections, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, and contains provisions that require any organization or individual handling Chinese citizens’ personal data to minimize data collection and to obtain prior consent.
- However, unlike in Europe, where governments face more public pressure over data collection, Beijing is expected to maintain broad access to data.
China Delays Anti-Sanctions Law for Hong Kong – Wall Street Journal, 8/20/2021
- Beijing delayed plans for a new law that could bar banks and companies in Hong Kong from complying with sanctions on China’s people, reflecting caution about a measure that has sent a wave of concern through the city’s business community.
- China’s legislature had planned to implement new laws in Hong Kong and Macau mirroring the antiforeign sanctions law that was passed on the mainland in June in response to a series of restrictive measures imposed by the U.S. and Europe.
- But in an unexpected move, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress decided not to press ahead for now while it studies the issue, Tam Yiu-chung, a Hong Kong delegate to the panel, said Friday.
- The delay is a reprieve for companies that had feared the Catch-22 of violating Chinese law by upholding sanctions or violating U.S. law by not doing so.
China Closes U.S. Auditor as Tensions Mount Over Forced Labor Allegations – Wall Street Journal, 8/20/2021
- Chinese authorities have shut down a U.S. labor auditor’s local China partner, escalating Beijing’s campaign to counter forced-labor allegations in its northwest Xinjiang region and potentially complicating efforts by multinationals to certify supply chains in the country.
- China-based Shenzhen Verite, which is affiliated with U.S. labor rights nonprofit Verite, was closed following an April raid on its offices by Chinese security forces, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
- Though Verite was a small player in China’s auditing industry, companies including Walt Disney and Apple have hired the Amherst, Mass.-based company to consult on labor issues at Chinese factories.
- The nonprofit also had a reputation for producing investigations that lent credibility to corporations grappling with labor rights-related issues, according to other auditors.
Afghanistan GDP may slump 20% after Taliban takeover – Fitch Solutions – Reuters, 8/20/2021
- Afghanistan’s economy could shrink by as much as 20% this year and its currency may slide further than it already has following the Taliban’s takeover, Fitch Solutions said on Friday.
- The Taliban seized power last weekend from a U.S.-backed government, sending thousands fleeing and potentially heralding a return to the militants’ austere and autocratic rule of two decades ago.
- “It is likely that the economy will contract sharply this year,” Anwita Basu, head of Asia Country Risk at Fitch Solutions – the analysis and research arm of Fitch Group – told Reuters.
- Basu said Afghanistan’s currency, the afghani, which has already weakened more than 7% this month against the U.S. dollar, may fall more because most of the state’s foreign-held assets have been frozen to stop the Taliban from gaining access. She added that hyper-inflation cannot be ruled out.
Japan’s consumer price falls narrow on global commodity inflation – Reuters, 8/20/2021
- Japan’s core consumer prices narrowed their annual pace of falls for three straight months in July, a sign global commodities inflation was offsetting some of the deflationary pressure from a pandemic-induced spending slump.
- Japan’s core consumer price index (CPI), which includes oil but excludes fresh food prices, fell 0.2% in July from a year earlier, marking the 12th straight month of declines, government data showed on Friday.
- The fall was due in part to a change in the base year for the CPI that gives a heavier weighting to mobile charge fees, which plunged a record 39.6% in July.
- But the drop was smaller than market forecasts for a 0.4% fall and a 0.5% decrease in June due to the boost from rising food and fuel costs, including a 19.6% spike in gasoline bills.
- The so-called core-core consumer price index, which strips away not just fresh food but energy costs, fell 0.6% in July from a year earlier.
UK July retail sales drop amid soccer frenzy and COVID ‘pingdemic’ – Reuters, 8/20/2021
- British retail sales unexpectedly fell in July, official data showed on Friday, suggesting at least some consumers skipped shopping to follow England’s run in the Euro 2020 soccer tournament, or stayed at home due to rising COVID-19 cases.
- Sales volumes fell by 2.5% from June, the biggest drop since January when Britain returned to lockdown. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a 0.4% month-on-month rise.
- The ONS said food store sales were down by 1.5%, reflecting a jump in June and the opening of more hospitality venues. Non-food stores reported a fall of 4.4%, though sales remained 5.8% above their pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.
- In a possible sign of renewed caution among shoppers, or July’s bad weather, online sales rose to 27.9% of total spending after hitting a pandemic low in June.
Covid-19 Closure at China’s Ningbo Port Is Latest Snarl in Global Supply Chains – Wall Street Journal, 8/20/2021
- A major container terminal at China’s Ningbo-Zhoushan Port remained shut a week after operations were suspended from a single Covid-19 case, with dozens of ships lining up to load cargo for western markets ahead of the year-end shopping season.
- The congestion at Meishan terminal, which isn’t expected to resume full operations before the end of the month, is spreading to other ports like Shanghai and Hong Kong as big operators divert ships away from Ningbo.
- Ningbo is the world’s third-largest container port and a big gateway for Chinese exports like furniture, home goods, toys and auto parts headed to markets in the U.S. and Europe. The Meishan terminal is one of the biggest among seven box terminals at Ningbo, moving more than 7 million boxes a year.
- The cascading effect will lead to crowding at ports along the Asia-to-Europe and trans-Pacific routes that could further slow the flow of goods. It will also hit cargo owners from giant retailers like Walmart Inc. and Amazon. com Inc. to mom-and-pop shops, which will have to deal with late deliveries and higher transport costs as they work to restock ahead of the holidays.
- As part of his Great Society policies, Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act which, among other things, established the Head Start program. (1964)
- The space probe Voyager 2 was launched. It continues to explore to this day, and is now more than 7 billion miles from Earth. (1977)
- U.S. cruise missiles hit suspected terrorist bases in Afghanistan and the Sudan. (1998)