US FINANCIAL MARKET
Stocks Open Lower After S&P 500 Notches Record – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- U.S. stocks slipped Tuesday but were on track to end the month higher as major indexes wrapped up trading for August.
- The S&P 500 fell 0.1%, a day after the broad index notched its 53rd record close of the year.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost about 10 points, or less than 0.1%. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite slid 0.2%.
- Fresh data Tuesday showed that consumer confidence in the U.S. deteriorated in August, retreating to its lowest level since February. The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index fell to 113.8, from a downwardly revised 125.1 in July.
- The yield on the benchmark 10-Year U.S. Treasury note edged up to 1.290%, from 1.284% on Monday.
- Brent crude, the international benchmark in energy markets, fell 0.6% to $71.83 a barrel.
- Overseas, the Stoxx Europe 600 slid 0.5%.
- Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.1% by the close of trading. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index gained 1.3%, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.5%.
- Zoom Video Communications fell 16%.
- The videoconferencing company late Monday forecast lower-than-expected adjusted earnings.
Covid-19 Booster Shots Get Support From Expert Panel – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- Health experts advising the U.S. government on vaccines expressed initial support for giving booster shots to people vaccinated against Covid-19, starting with healthcare workers, nursing-home residents and others immunized earliest.
- Members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, on Monday indicated their agreement with the Biden administration’s plans to offer the extra doses.
- Yet they said the priority should remain increasing vaccinations of unvaccinated people, and that boosters shouldn’t distract or impede from doing that.
- When giving boosters, some panel members added, the priority should be preventing severe disease in people at highest risk of becoming sick with Covid-19, as opposed to preventing infections.
Zoom Hits $1 Billion in Quarterly Revenue, but Shows Signs of Easing Growth – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- Zoom Video Communications’ quarterly revenue surpassed $1 billion for the first time in the company’s history, though the strong demand for its videoconferencing services that made it ubiquitous during the pandemic is showing signs of easing as regular activities resume.
- Zoom’s second-quarter profit rose to about $317 million from about $186 million a year earlier, while revenue reached $1.02 billion, up from $663.5 million a year ago.
- On Monday, Zoom said it had about 504,900 customers with more than 10 employees, up from about 497,000 in the April quarter, and said about 2,278 customers generated more than $100,000 in revenue over the past 12 months, up from about 1,999 in the previous quarter.
- The California-based company said it now expects annual revenue to reach $4.01 billion to $4.02 billion, compared with its earlier view of $3.98 billion to $3.99 billion, and $4.75 to $4.79 a share in adjusted profit, compared with its previous range of $4.56 to $4.61 a share.
Google, Apple Hit by First Law Threatening Dominance Over App-Store Payments – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- Google and Apple will have to open their app stores to alternative payment systems in South Korea, threatening their lucrative commissions on digital sales.
- A bill passed Tuesday by South Korea’s National Assembly is the first in the world to dent the tech giants’ dominance over how apps on their platforms sell their digital goods.
- It will become law once signed by President Moon Jae-in, whose party strongly endorsed the legislation.
- The law amends South Korea’s Telecommunications Business Act to prevent large app-market operators from requiring the use of their in-app purchasing systems.
- It also bans operators from unreasonably delaying the approval of apps or deleting them from the marketplace—provisions meant to head off retaliation against app makers.
Delta variant likely to hurt U.S. restaurant recovery -report – Reuters, 8/31/2021
- The spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 threatens the fragile recovery of U.S. restaurants, according to a report on Tuesday from the National Restaurant Association.
- Nearly one in five adults surveyed online from August 13-15 said they stopped going to restaurants as Delta cases rose, the report said.
- Total annual sales at U.S. restaurants are expected to rise 19.7% from 2020 to $789 billion in 2021.
- But that will still be 8.7% lower than 2019’s $864.3 billion total sales, the report said.
- Restaurant sales dropped in August from July, according to Black Box Intelligence data.
- July’s sales were 8.1% higher than in 2019, but sales in August through Aug. 22 were up only 6.3% over 2019.
Entergy Says 2,000 Miles of High-Voltage Lines Knocked Out by Hurricane Ida – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- Entergy’s challenge in restoring power after Hurricane Ida extends well beyond New Orleans as it repairs widespread wind damage to much of its transmission system.
- Rod West, Entergy’s group president of utility operations, said Monday that 207 transmission lines traversing more than 2,000 miles are out of service in Louisiana and Mississippi. About 900,000 customers are without power, and the company expects the number to increase as the storm moves through Mississippi.
- It initially gave customers a three-week estimate for how long power restoration might take, but Mr. West said repairs could go faster—or slower—depending on location.
US ECONOMY & POLITICS
U.S. Home-Price Growth Rose to Record in June – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- Home-price growth climbed to a record in June, as robust demand continued to outpace the number of homes on the market.
- The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which measures average home prices in major metropolitan areas across the nation, rose 18.6% in the year that ended in June, up from a 16.8% annual rate the prior month.
- June marked the highest annual rate of price growth since the index began in 1987.
- The Case-Shiller 10-city index gained 18.5% over the year ended in June, compared with a 16.6% increase in May.
- The 20-city index rose 19.1%, after an annual gain of 17.1% in May. Price growth accelerated in all 20 cities.
- A separate measure of home-price growth by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, also released Tuesday, found an 18.8% increase in home prices in June from a year earlier, a record in data going back to 1991.
U.S. Consumer Confidence Falls to Six-Month Low on Delta Variant – Bloomberg, 8/31/2021
- U.S. consumer confidence dropped in August to a six-month low, suggesting concerns over the delta variant and elevated prices are weighing on Americans’ views of the economy now and in the coming months.
- The Conference Board’s index fell to 113.8 from a revised 125.1 reading in July, according to the group’s report Tuesday. Economists in a Bloomberg survey had called for a decline to 123.
- The Conference Board’s gauge of current conditions fell to 147.3, the lowest reading since April. Consumers’ views of present business conditions declined, while economic expectations dropped to 91.4, a seven-month low.
- Consumers were less upbeat about their future income and job prospects. The share of consumers who said jobs were “plentiful” eased slightly from a multi-decade high.
- Consumers said they were somewhat less likely to purchase cars, homes and appliances. Vacation plans for the next six months edged higher.
House Rents Pop Up as New Investors Pile In – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- Would-be home buyers priced out of the sales market are finding little consolation when they turn instead to the single-family rental market.
- Prices are soaring there as well. Asking rents for houses rose nearly 13% for the year to date through July, the highest annual increase in the past five years as tracked by real-estate data company Yardi Matrix, which analyzed professionally managed properties.
- Apartment asking rents also have risen, but at a slower pace: 8.3% for the year to date through July, Yardi Matrix said.
- Investors purchased $87 billion in homes in the first half of 2021, according to real-estate company Redfin, including a record 68,000 houses in the second quarter.
- Since June, Blackstone Group, Invesco and Goldman Sachs alone have committed more than $11 billion to the sector.
- Meanwhile, other companies are building rental homes from scratch.
- New houses meant to be rented instead of sold account for about 12% of single-family construction in 2021, said Doug Ressler, a researcher at Yardi.
Last U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan After Nearly 20 Years – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- A U.S. military C-17 carried the last American troops out of Afghanistan on Monday, marking the formal end of the longest war in U.S. history but leaving between 100 and 200 Americans and tens of thousands of America’s Afghan allies to face a future of uncertainty and danger.
- The final U.S. withdrawal came one minute before the Aug. 31 deadline set by President Biden, an exit under the persistent threat of terrorist attacks that already had claimed the lives of 13 American service members and more than 200 Afghans, who were killed in a suspected Islamic State suicide bombing at the Kabul airport on Thursday.
- Despite assurances to the contrary by Mr. Biden and other top administration officials, Americans and Afghan allies were left behind, though the State Department couldn’t provide precise figures.
- The U.S. earlier Monday said it was working to assist hundreds of Americans still there. Advocacy groups said as many as 60,000 Afghan interpreters, drivers and others who assisted the U.S. military, CIA and U.S. diplomatic personnel over the years, along with their families, remain in the country, at risk of retribution from the Taliban.
U.S. Investigates Kabul Airstrike; 10 Afghan Civilians Died, Relatives Say – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- The Pentagon pledged a transparent investigation of an airstrike in Kabul on Sunday that it said was aimed at foiling an attack by Islamic State militants on the Afghan capital’s airport.
- A missile that day killed 10 civilians—all relatives of a former interpreter who had been seeking a U.S. special immigrant visa because he feared retribution from the Taliban, family members and a neighbor said.
- Emal Ahmady, who said he worked as a translator for an American company from 2011 to 2014, said in a telephone interview that five children in his extended family were killed, along with five adults. He wasn’t home at the time, he said.
- In a statement, U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for military operations in Afghanistan, said there “were substantial and powerful subsequent explosions resulting from the destruction of the vehicle, indicating a large amount of explosive material inside that may have caused additional casualties,” adding: “It is unclear what may have happened.”
- Mr. Ahmady said his neighbors told him there were no secondary explosions. A neighbor told the Journal the same thing.
EUROPE & WORLD
Chinese Tech Giant Meituan Logs Another Loss Despite Sales Jump – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- Chinese food-delivery giant Meituan reported another big jump in quarterly revenue, as more people turned to it to order meals and groceries, but the company remained unprofitable for a third consecutive quarter as it spent heavily to expand.
- Second-quarter revenue jumped 77% from a year earlier to the equivalent of $6.8 billion, buoyed by strong sales across all its three business segments: food-delivery; restaurant-, hotel- and travel-booking; and new businesses.
- Revenue for the company’s core food-delivery business rose 59% to the equivalent of $3.6 billion.
- Revenue for its new businesses, which include community group buying—a form of bulk buying for groceries that is taking off rapidly in China—more than doubled to the equivalent of $1.9 billion.
- Meituan reported a net loss of $519 million, its third consecutive quarter of losses, compared with a profit of $341 million in the same period a year earlier.
Eurozone Inflation Hits Decade High as Bottlenecks Bite – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- Inflation in the eurozone hit its highest level in almost a decade in August amid signs that shortages of semiconductors and other important manufacturing components are pushing up the prices paid by consumers.
- Broad consumer prices were 3% higher in August than a year earlier, a pickup from the 2.2% rate of inflation recorded in July and the sharpest rise since November 2011.
- Inflation rates have picked up around the world in recent months, largely driven by rising energy costs as a rebound in demand proves stronger than oil and other energy producers had anticipated.
- But there are signs that shortages of key parts such as microprocessors are also pushing consumer prices higher, threatening a lengthier period of stronger inflation.
Covid-19 Delta Variant Pummels China’s Services Sector – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- China’s services sector suffered an unexpectedly severe blow in August as a wave of coronavirus infections sparked new lockdowns across the country, sending an official gauge of nonmanufacturing activity into contractionary territory for the first time since the country’s pandemic recovery began more than a year ago.
- China’s official nonmanufacturing purchasing managers index, which tracks activity in the construction and services sectors, plummeted to 47.5 in August, from 53.3 the prior month, according to data released Tuesday by the National Bureau of Statistics, breaking through the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction.
- The 47.5 reading—which fell well short of economists’ forecasts for a reading comfortably above 50—marks the first time the official measure has dropped into contractionary territory since February 2020, at the height of the initial explosion of the coronavirus, which led to the lockdown of the central Chinese province of Hubei.
- Largely responsible for the drop in the nonmanufacturing measure was a significant fall in the services subindex, which slid to 45.2 in August from July’s 52.5, as the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant dampened demand for services requiring close human-to-human contact, the statistics bureau said.
India’s Economy Is Healing but Battered by Covid-19 Waves – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- India’s economy is growing at a record pace but still digging out from one of the deepest recessions to hit any major economy during the pandemic.
- The country’s gross domestic product grew 20.1% in the three months ended June, a period when India suffered through one of the world’s worst Covid-19 surges of the pandemic.
- In July, the International Monetary Fund lowered India’s economic forecast to 9.5% from 12.5% for the fiscal year ending March 2022 after lowering it earlier in April. The IMF expects the nation’s economic growth to be around 8.5% until 2023.
Prosus Makes $4.7 Billion Bet on Online Payments in India – Wall Street Journal, 8/31/2021
- European technology giant Prosus said it struck a $4.7 billion deal—its largest-ever acquisition—to buy Indian payments platform BillDesk, the latest investor bet that more and more consumers will conduct transactions online.
- Amsterdam-listed Prosus, which is majority owned by South African holding company Naspers, said its payments and fintech subsidiary PayU will pay 345 billion rupees, equivalent to $4.72 billion, for BillDesk in an all-cash deal.
- BillDesk, which currently competes with Prosus’s PayU in India, allows its customers to aggregate invoices and organize, pay and manage their bills in one place. Founded in 2000, it generated an after-tax profit of $36.8 million in the year ended March, while its net assets were valued at about $256.9 million largely in cash and cash equivalents.
- Mary Ann Nicholls, considered to be Jack the Ripper’s first victim, was found murdered in London. (1888)
- Russia officially ended its military presence in the former East Germany and the Baltic states. (1994)
- Princess Diana and her companion Dodi al-Fayed were killed in a car accident in Paris. (1997)