US FINANCIAL MARKET
Stocks Up, Yields Down as Data Fuel Fed Skip Bets: Markets Wrap – Bloomberg, 8/29/2023
- Wall Street traders pushed the stock market higher, while bond yields retreated after economic reports bolstered speculation the Federal Reserve will be able to pause its interest-rate hikes in September.
- The S&P 500 headed toward its longest winning streak in a month, topping 4,450. A rally in megacaps like Tesla and Nvidia sent the Nasdaq 100 up 1.5%.
- Treasury two-year yields, which are more sensitive to imminent policy moves, dropped 14 basis points to 4.9%.
- Bitcoin rallied 5% as a US court paved the way for the first exchange-traded fund tracking the cryptocurrency.
- Swap contracts showed lower bets on a Fed hike in 2023 and an increased chance of a rate cut during the first half of 2024.
- US job openings fell by more than expected to 8.83 million — a more than two-year low — offering fresh evidence that labor demand is cooling.
- A separate report showed consumer confidence dropped the most in two years as souring views on jobs, higher borrowing costs and lingering inflation curbed optimism.
- A gauge of US-listed Chinese stocks rallied as Bloomberg News reported that the nation’s largest banks are preparing to cut interest rates on existing mortgages and deposits, the latest state-directed measures to shore up growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
- The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.1%.
- West Texas Intermediate crude rose 0.4% to $80.39 a barrel.
Best Buy Sales Drop on Falling Demand for Appliances, Electronics – Wall Street Journal, 8/29/2023
- Best Buy’s sales and profit fell in the second quarter as demand for electronics moderated after outsized gains during the pandemic.
- Sales slipped 7.2% to $9.58 billion, coming out ahead of analyst forecasts for $9.52 billion, according to FactSet.
- Comparable sales, which adjusted for store openings and closings, were down 6.2%.
- In the U.S., store sales fell 6.3% while online sales dropped 7.1%.
- The company logged earnings of $1.25 a share, compared with $1.35 a share a year earlier.
- Best Buy now expects $43.8 billion to $44.5 billion in revenue, lowering the ceiling of its previous guidance range for up to $45.2 billion.
- Adjusted earnings are now projected to be $6.00 to $6.40 a share, narrowed from a prior range of $5.70 to $6.50 a share.
Google Chases Microsoft, Amazon Cloud Market Share With AI Tools – Wall Street Journal, 8/29/2023
- Google is selling broad access to its most powerful artificial-intelligence technology for the first time as it races to make up ground in the lucrative cloud-software market.
- Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, is planning to outline the offerings to thousands of customers at Google’s annual cloud conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, while making widely available a number of tools that can help draft emails or summarize lengthy documents stored in the cloud.
- The new products will intensify competition with Microsoft, the second-largest cloud provider, and OpenAI, the ChatGPT creator it has backed with billions of dollars. Both companies already sell access to the latest AI technology behind the popular ChatGPT bot, but Google’s launch on Tuesday puts it ahead of Microsoft in making AI-powered office software easily available for all customers.
- Google is also using the event to showcase customer uses of its technology, including a planned GE Appliances app that uses Google’s AI models to create recipes based on the food in a customer’s fridge.
US Unveils Plan to Hit More Banks With Long-Term Debt Minimums – Bloomberg, 8/29/2023
- US officials unveiled their latest response to this year’s bank turmoil with a proposal to boost oversight of midsize lenders and require them to be better prepared for potential failures.
- The plans from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. aren’t a signal of new stresses in the sector, but are instead an attempt to ensure that lenders can be dissolved smoothly and quickly following any collapse.
- The regulator on Tuesday plans to propose that banks with as little as $100 billion in assets be required to issue enough long-term debt to cover capital losses in times of severe stress.
- Lenders would also have to bolster their hypothetical resolution plans so, if needed, they could easily be taken apart.
- A buffer of long-term debt like the one to be proposed Tuesday would help protect the fund by avoiding the need for a system-risk exception, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg said earlier this month.
U.S. Steel Entering Confidential Pacts as It Reviews Bids – Wall Street Journal, 8/29/2023
- U.S. Steel said it has entered into confidentiality agreements with “numerous third parties” and is starting to share due diligence information as it reviews bids for the company or parts of it.
- In a letter to shareholders, Chief Executive David Burritt and Chairman David Sutherland reiterated that the steelmaker has received “multiple unsolicited proposals.” The offers range from buyouts to offers for parts of the company.
- Rival steelmaker Cleveland-Cliffs has made its cash-and-stock offer to buy all of U.S. Steel for $35 a share public, and the company’s takeover efforts have received support from the United Steelworkers union. U.S. Steel previously rejected the Cleveland-Cliffs offer.
- U.S. Steel said in the letter Tuesday that it has “multiple, credible bidders.” The company said it is focused on running a fair and competitive process to maximize value.
Bristol, Lilly Blockbuster Drugs Targeted by Biden for Medicare Price Cuts – Bloomberg, 8/29/2023
- Pharmaceutical giants spanning Bristol-Myers Squibb to Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly are the first targets of President Joe Biden’s historic foray into bargaining with drugmakers to lower the cost of medicine.
- On Tuesday, the administration released the names of 10 prescription drugs that will be subject to the negotiating power of Medicare, the US health program for roughly 65 million seniors.
- The government expects prices will be slashed by half on average, with the first cuts taking effect in 2026.
- The group includes Eliquis, the blockbuster blood thinner made by Bristol and Pfizer that’s now the costliest on the list to Medicare, accounting for $16 billion in spending in the 12 months through May 2023, according to the government.
- The list also includes AstraZeneca Plc’s Farxiga, which treats diabetes and heart failure.
- The US’s ability to bargain over drug prices had been prohibited by the 2003 law that created Medicare’s Part D program that covers some of seniors’ medication costs. But Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law a year ago in response public outrage over US medicine costs that are the highest in the world, mandated the negotiations.
- Other drugs subject to negotiated prices in 2026 include leukemia drug Imbruvica from AbbVie and J&J, Amgen’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel, Merck’s diabetes drug Januvia, Novartis’s heart medication Entresto, Novo Nordisk A/S’s insulin NovoLog, and the type 2 diabetes pill Jardiance from Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim.
Goldman Is Selling a Wealth-Advisory Unit to $240 Billion Money Manager – Bloomberg, 8/29/2023
- Goldman Sachs struck a deal to sell an investment-advisory business aimed at the mass-affluent market to Creative Planning LLC, a wealth-management firm that oversees about $240 billion.
- The bank agreed to sell the business, with $29 billion in assets, that grew out of United Capital, a registered investment adviser it purchased for $750 million, according to a statement.
- The offloading of the company just four years after Goldman acquired it signals the firm’s intention to refocus its attention on the ultra-rich segment where it has a dominant presence.
- Goldman didn’t disclose the sale price but said it expects to recognize a gain when the deal closes.
- That’s in sharp contrast to the other sale Goldman is pursuing: the divestment of installment lender GreenSky at a steep discount just over a year after it completed that takeover.
Lordstown hopeful to find buyer for all or some parts of business – Bloomberg News – Reuters, 8/29/2023
- Lordstown Motors is formulating a debt repayment plan and is hopeful that it will find buyers in Chapter 11 for all or parts of its business, Bloomberg News reported, citing the electric truck manufacturer’s attorney Thomas Lauria.
- The company filed for bankruptcy protection in June and put itself up for sale after failing to resolve a dispute over a promised investment from Taiwan’s Foxconn.
- A U.S. judge on Monday ruled out Foxconn’s bid to curtail Lordstown’s efforts at seeking bankruptcy protection in the U.S., marking a shot in the arm for the troubled EV manufacturer embroiled in legal disputes.
- Judge Mary Walrath refused to dismiss Lordstown’s bankruptcy petition.
- Foxconn, formally called Hon Hai Precision Industry and best known for assembling Apple’s iPhones, has said Lordstown breached the investment agreement when the automaker’s stock price fell below $1.
Mallinckrodt Subpoenaed Over Suspicious Orders for Controlled Substances – Wall Street Journal, 8/29/2023
- Mallinckrodt on Monday disclosed that it faces a grand jury subpoena over sales of controlled substances as it filed for bankruptcy for the second time in three years to reduce by roughly $1 billion its prior pledge to pay compensation for its alleged role in the opioid crisis.
- Mallinckrodt said it received the subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia last week, seeking data and information dating back to 2017 about the company’s reporting of suspicious controlled substances orders, chargebacks and other transactions, as well as communications between the company and the Drug Enforcement Administration regarding those issues.
- The company said it is in the process of responding to the subpoena and intends to cooperate in the investigation.
- It said it believes it is in compliance with its obligations through its compliance program for controlled substances.
- The drugmaker filed for bankruptcy in 2020 and made an eight-year, $1.7 billion pledge to settle the lawsuits, of which roughly $450 million was paid to the opioid trust upon its exit from chapter 11 last time.
American Airlines Fined $4.1 Million for Keeping Fliers on Planes Too Long – Wall Street Journal, 8/29/2023
- American Airlines is on the hook for a big fine after keeping passengers on dozens of flights stuck on the ground too long.
- Authorities said passengers on 43 American flights between 2018 and 2021 had to sit on the tarmac for more than three hours without being given a chance to deplane, violating federal rules that were put in place over a decade ago to prevent such waits.
- The $4.1 million fine levied by the U.S. Transportation Department is the largest ever for lengthy tarmac delays, the department said. Half of the fine will be credited to American for compensation it has already paid to customers.
- American said the long delays, which affected a small number of the millions of flights it operated over that period, were the result of “exceptional weather events” and that it has apologized to the customers who were affected.
US ECONOMY & POLITICS
US Job Openings Decline to 8.83 Million, Lowest Since Early 2021 – Bloomberg, 8/29/2023
- US job openings fell in July by more than expected to a more than two-year low, offering fresh evidence that labor demand is cooling.
- The number of available positions decreased to 8.83 million from 9.17 million in June, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, showed Tuesday. It marked the sixth decline in the last seven months.
- The so-called quits rate, which measures voluntary job leavers as a share of total employment, dropped to 2.3%, the lowest since the start of 2021. That implies Americans are less confident in their ability to find another job in the current market.
- The ratio of openings to unemployed people retreated to 1.5, the lowest since September 2021. At its peak in 2022, the ratio was 2 to 1.
- Hires declined to the lowest level since January 2021.
- The number of hires has dropped by 458,000 over the latest two months, the largest decrease since the end of 2020.
US Home Prices Climb for Fifth Month Amid Tight Inventory – Bloomberg, 8/29/2023
- Home prices in the US climbed for a fifth month as buyers competed for deals in the least affordable market in decades.
- A national gauge of prices rose 0.7% in June from May, according to seasonally adjusted data from S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller.
- The average 30-year mortgage rate reached 6.79% in early June, according to data from Freddie Mac.
- It has since jumped to 7.23%, further squeezing buyers.
- Chicago, Cleveland and New York posted the biggest year-over-year gains of a 20-city measure in June. Some of the worst-performing cities included Seattle, where prices fell 8.8% from a year earlier, and San Francisco, where prices dropped 9.7%.
- On a year-over year basis, home prices nationally were flat.
- More recent data from Redfin showed values for the four weeks through Aug. 6 climbed 3% from the same period in 2022.
US Consumer Confidence Falls by More Than Forecast in August – Bloomberg, 8/29/2023
- US consumer confidence fell by more than forecast in August as souring views on the labor market and lingering inflation curbed optimism.
- The Conference Board’s index fell to 106.1 this month from 114 in July, data out Tuesday showed. The number was below all estimates in a Bloomberg survey, and the decline reversed most of the advance over the previous two months.
- The group’s gauge of current conditions fell to 144.8, the lowest since November. A measure of expectations — which reflects consumers’ six-month outlook — dropped to 80.2, leaving it slightly above June’s level.
- A gauge of expected inflation a year ahead edged up to 5.8%, marking the first uptick in five months. While consumers have been enjoying some relief from abating inflation, still-high prices continue to weigh on sentiment.
- Fewer consumers said jobs were “plentiful,” while more said jobs were “hard to get.” The difference between the two measures — a figure watched closely by economists as a gauge of labor-market health — narrowed to the least since April 2021.
Trump’s Federal Trial on Election Interference Set to Start March 4, 2024 – Wall Street Journal, 8/29/2023
- Former President Donald Trump’s trial on charges that he conspired to overturn his 2020 election loss is set to start March 4, 2024—one day before Super Tuesday, when voters in 14 states will cast their primary ballots for the next presidential election.
- Chutkan refused a request from Trump, the current front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, to push off his trial until April 2026, saying defense attorneys didn’t need two years to examine the extensive evidence in the case.
- But she also said prosecutors’ request for a Jan. 2, 2024, start date—two weeks before the first Republican primary votes will be cast in Iowa’s Jan. 15 caucuses—didn’t give defense attorneys enough time to prepare.
- Trump can’t appeal the trial date, but he can seek to delay it through pretrial motions, which his lawyers have signaled they intend to do.
- March 4 is also the date Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis initially proposed for Trump’s trial on similar election-interference charges, setting up a possible collision course for federal and local prosecutors as they seek to convict the former president relying on many of the same witnesses and much of the same evidence.
The Race to Succeed President Biden Is Heating Up on the 2024 Campaign Trail – Wall Street Journal, 8/29/2023
- High-profile Democratic governors are stumping for President Biden’s 2024 re-election campaign and simultaneously auditioning to become the party’s next standard-bearer.
- Their efforts signal they are unlikely to cede that role in 2028 to Vice President Kamala Harris, whose sluggish approval ratings have raised doubts among some donors and party officials about whether she can effectively succeed Biden.
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom has toured red states such as Idaho, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama to campaign for Biden and other Democrats, and earlier this year launched a political-action committee targeting Republican policies.
- Maryland Gov. Wes Moore raised money for Democratic governors on the sidelines of the annual Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference in July, offered a televised response to the first GOP debate and attended recent fundraisers in New York’s summer enclaves of the Hamptons.
- Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro will travel to New Hampshire next month for a keynote address to the state Democratic Party’s convention. And Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, who was vetted as a possible Biden running mate in 2020, promoted the recent anniversary of the president’s climate and jobs legislation.
- The Democratic governors, including Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, have endorsed Biden’s re-election and played down their presidential ambitions.
Hawaiian Electric Denies Causing Lahaina Fire – Wall Street Journal, 8/29/2023
- Hawaiian Electric said Monday that its power lines weren’t responsible for the wildfire that destroyed the town of Lahaina, killing at least 115 people, and blamed Maui County firefighters for an inadequate response.
- The company made the statements in a public response to a lawsuit filed last week by Maui County that blamed Hawaiian Electric, the local electric utility known as HECO, for the blaze, and sought damages for costs the local government has incurred.
- According to HECO, a fire that started early in the morning of Aug. 8 was caused by its power lines that fell in high winds, but that blaze was declared extinguished by firefighters before they left the scene at 2 p.m. HECO workers arrived to make repairs that afternoon and saw no smoke or embers.
- In its lawsuit last week, Maui alleged HECO was negligent in failing to cut power ahead of the windstorm that fanned the flames which leveled the historic town. It also alleged the company failed to properly maintain its system.
- Official probes into the fires’ origins are expected. Investigators are likely to consider several possible sources that sparked the blazes, including a camp fire, lightning and electrical equipment, according to longtime fire investigators and electrical-grid experts.
As Pandemic Funds Expire, Child-Care Centers Struggle to Survive – Wall Street Journal, 8/29/2023
- States are scrambling to find ways to keep child-care centers afloat after billions in Covid-relief funding run out next month, amid worries that the facility closures could affect workforce participation and limit children’s access to early education.
- Under the American Rescue Plan Act, the federal government appropriated almost $39 billion for child-care providers struggling to keep their doors open during the pandemic.
- The deadline to spend what remains of the first $24 billion of these funds is Sept. 30.
- A June report from the Century Foundation, a nonprofit think tank, estimates that the end of federal funds will likely lead to the closure of 70,000 child-care programs, with 3.2 million children, primarily those five years old and younger, losing their seats at child-care centers, family child-care homes, preschools and other early-learning settings.
- The price of child care for families has also risen, with the Labor Department reporting a 6% increase in the average cost for preschool and daycare this year, nearly twice the rate of inflation.
EUROPE & WORLD
Pinduoduo-owner PDD beats revenue expectations as promotions lure consumers – Reuters, 8/29/2023
- PDD Holdings second-quarter revenue estimates on Tuesday, as its discount e-commerce platform Pinduoduo attracted price-conscious customers in China and its international shopping site, Temu, continued its rapid growth.
- The company said revenue jumped 66% from a year earlier to 52.28 billion yuan ($7.17 billion) in the quarter ended June 30, well above analysts’ average estimate of 43.68 billion yuan, according to Refinitiv data.
- PDD’s net income attributable to ordinary shareholders rose to 13.11 billion yuan in the second quarter from 8.90 billion yuan a year earlier.
- Spending during the Chinese 618 shopping festival period from late-May through mid-June also lifted sales.
Nio reports wider second-quarter loss amid China slowdown and product line revamp – CNBC, 8/29/2023
- Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio lost $835.1 million in the second quarter, more than twice its year-ago loss as deliveries of its upscale EVs slipped amid a transition to an updated vehicle platform and a broader economic slowdown in China.
- Revenue: 8.77 billion yuan ($1.21 billion), vs. 9.25 billion yuan expected.
- Adjusted loss per share: 3.28 yuan (45 cents), vs. 2.45 yuan expected.
- Nio’s gross margin on vehicles for the second quarter was 6.2% in the second quarter, down from 16.7% a year ago but up from 5.1% in the first quarter of 2023.
- The company delivered just 23,520 vehicles in the second quarter as it sold down the last of its outgoing models with substantial discounts.
- Nio now expects to deliver between 55,000 and 57,000 vehicles in the third quarter, up significantly from the 31,607 EVs it delivered in the third quarter of 2022.
- It expects its revenue for the period to fall between $2.61 billion and $2.69 billion, up from $1.83 billion in the year-ago period.
China Banks to Cut Rates on Mortgages, Deposits in Stimulus Push – Bloomberg, 8/29/2023
- China’s largest banks are preparing to cut interest rates on existing mortgages and deposits, the latest state-directed measures to shore up growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
- An announcement that big state-owned lenders are reducing rates on the majority of the nation’s 38.6 trillion yuan ($5.3 trillion) of outstanding mortgages may come as soon as Tuesday, according to people familiar with the matter.
- The reductions will only affect loans on first homes, two of the people said.
- The moves are part of a targeted push by Beijing to spur consumer spending, drive more funds into the stock market and alleviate pressure on lenders’ profit margins.
- More than 90% of China’s outstanding mortgages were for first homes as of July 2021, according to the latest public data available from the banking regulator.
- In 2022, more than 80% of new home loans were on first homes, according to the housing ministry.
U.S., Allies Seek Long-Term Military Aid for Ukraine to Show West’s Resolve – Wall Street Journal, 8/29/2023
- The Biden administration and its European allies are laying plans for long-term military assistance to Ukraine to ensure Russia won’t be able to win on the battlefield and persuade the Kremlin that Western support for Kyiv won’t waver.
- The effort, building on commitments made at a Group of Seven leaders meeting on the sidelines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in July in Vilnius, Lithuania, so far involves bilateral negotiations between the U.S. and Ukraine and the U.K. and Ukraine.
- About 18 non-G-7 countries have signed up to the group’s pledge to provide long-term assistance to Kyiv, including the Netherlands, Sweden and other European countries.
- While there has been broad bipartisan support of Ukraine, leading Republican presidential candidates have signaled U.S. support should wind down.
- Trump has said he would put a stop to the war in a day, by threatening both sides that he would support the other if they didn’t come to the negotiating table to make a settlement.
Putin Agrees to Visit China in First Trip Since Arrest Warrant – Bloomberg, 8/29/2023
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to make his first foreign trip since a warrant for his arrest on alleged war crimes was issued by the International Criminal Court.
- The Kremlin is preparing Putin’s visit to China for the Belt and Road Forum in October, according to three people with knowledge of the matter, who asked not to be identified because the issue is sensitive.
- Putin has accepted the invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping to attend the event, one of the people said.
- Putin last visited China in February 2022 — less than three weeks before he ordered the invasion — when he attended the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing and held talks with Xi at which the two sides declared a “no limits” partnership.
- Xi traveled to Moscow for a state visit in March this year, his first foreign trip since gaining an unprecedented third term as Chinese president, and said he hoped Putin would come to China before the end of the year.
Britain’s Food Inflation Cools to Lowest Level in Almost a Year – Bloomberg, 8/29/2023
- The slowest increase in grocery bills in almost a year drove down inflation in British shops in August, relieving some of the pressure on the Bank of England to keep raising interest rates.
- The British Retail Consortium said that shop price inflation fell sharply again to 6.9% in August from 7.6% the month before.
- Food price led the decline, particularly for meat, potatoes and cooking oils.
- BRC’s measure of grocery prices climbed 11.5% in the 12 months to August, the lowest rate since September 2022 and down from 13.4% in July.
- Markets expect the central bank to push ahead with two more final rate hikes to a peak of 5.75%, including a quarter point increase at the September meeting.
Pakistan Court Suspends Imran Khan’s Sentence in Corruption Case – Wall Street Journal, 8/29/2023
- A court in Pakistan on Tuesday suspended former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s three-year sentence in a corruption case, a legal victory that comes amid a continuing crackdown on the popular opposition leader and his political party.
- The court also granted Khan bail, but it remained unclear if the politician, who began serving his sentence earlier this month, would be freed from prison. Khan has faced many investigations and allegations brought by the authorities, ahead of elections due in coming months, and aides fear he could be rearrested upon his release.
- Khan was convicted in a corruption case on Aug. 5 over allegations that he didn’t fully disclose the proceeds from the sale of a diamond-encrusted watch in his tax returns and asset filings.
- The watch was given to him when he was prime minister by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
- Khan was ousted as prime minister in April 2022 in a no-confidence vote in parliament, after he lost the backing of the country’s powerful military, which has tightened its grip in recent months. Democracy remains fragile in Pakistan, which has seen long periods of direct military rule.
- Thousands of Khan’s supporters have been detained since May, while the media and human-rights groups have also come under pressure. Recently, the authorities have been rearresting Khan’s party officials—once a court frees them in one case—on fresh charges, at times detaining them as soon as they walk out of prison.
- Atahualpa, the last ruler of the Incas, was murdered as Francisco Pizarro completed his conquest of Peru. 1533
- Shays’s rebellion, an insurrection of Massachusetts farmers against the state government, began. 1786
- The Treaty of Nanking was signed, ending the Opium Wars and ceding the island of Hong Kong to Britain. 1842
- Brigham Young died in Salt Lake City, Utah. 1877
- The U.S.S.R. tested their first atomic bomb. 1949
- Strom Thurmond ended the longest filibuster in U.S. Senate history. He spoke for more than 24 hours against a civil rights bill; the bill passed. 1957
- The Beatles played their last major live concert at Candlestick Park, California. 1966
- The Supreme Soviet, the parliament of the U.S.S.R., suspended all activities of the Communist Party, bringing an end to the institution. 1991
- Hurricane Katrina slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast, destroying beachfront towns in Mississippi and Louisiana, displacing a million people, and killing more than 1,000. 2005