US FINANCIAL MARKET
Stocks, Oil Prices Fall on Omicron Restrictions – Wall Street Journal, 12/9/2021
- U.S. stocks edged down as investors assessed weekly jobless claims data and the latest global restrictions to limit the spread of the Omicron variant.
- The S&P 500 retreated 0.4% at the market open after closing up 0.3% Wednesday.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Composite also ticked down 0.4%.
- Popular meme stock GameStop declined 1.2% after the company posted earnings that showed a widening loss.
- Amazon.com fell 0.1% after the Italian government fined it $1.3 billion for alleged abuse of market dominance.
- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a new work-from-home mandate and mask guidelines on Wednesday evening.
- In a sign the labor market is improving faster than expected, weekly jobless claims came in at 184,000, the lowest level since 1969, according to the Labor Department.
- The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note edged down to 1.485% Thursday from 1.508% Wednesday.
- In Europe, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 ticked down 0.2%.
- In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index advanced 1%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 1.1%.
- China’s producer-price index showed a 12.9% increase in November from a year earlier, a decline from the previous month but still more than economists expected. Consumer prices also rose.
- Global oil benchmark Brent crude fell 1.2% to $74.96 a barrel, reversing direction after a five-day rally.
GameStop shares fall as video game retailer reports widening losses in third quarter – CNBC, 12/9/2021
- The company reported that its net loss grew to $105.4 million, or $1.39 per share, from a loss of $18.8 million, or 29 cents per share, a year earlier.
- Total revenue grew to $1.30 billion from $1.00 billion a year earlier.
- The company said its sales grew as it expanded relationships with brands, including Samsung, LG, Razer and Vizio.
- At the close of the quarter, inventory was $1.14 billion, compared with $861 million at the same time last year.
- GameStop is one of the companies that has gotten fresh attention from investors, thanks to Reddit posts and the meme stock frenzy.
- The Grapevine, Texas-based company said it has opened new offices in Seattle and Boston to draw talent in the tech hubs.
- It said it also secured a $500 million asset-based lending credit facility in November to help with liquidity and reduce borrowing costs.
- According to Matthew Furlong, CEO of Gamestop, the company has hired more than 200 senior employees from some top technology companies and expanded merchandise, such as adding more personal computing gaming items across about 60% of its U.S. locations.
American Airlines to Reduce International Flights Due to Boeing Dreamliner Delays – Wall Street Journal, 12/9/2021
- American Airlines is planning to trim international flights next summer because of Boeing’s delays in delivering new 787 Dreamliners, according to people familiar with the matter and a draft internal airline memo.
- American won’t fly to Edinburgh; Shannon, Ireland; or Hong Kong next summer, and will reduce the frequency of flights to Shanghai, Beijing and Sydney, according to the memo viewed by The Wall Street Journal.
- The carrier isn’t bringing back seasonal flights to Prague or Dubrovnik, Croatia, and it is delaying the launch of certain routes, such as from Seattle to Bangalore, India, which it had announced before the pandemic hit.
- Deliveries are expected to resume by April 1, 2022, at the earliest, later than previously anticipated, according to people familiar with the matter.
- United Airlines, another U.S. operator of Dreamliners, had been expecting eight new 787s to arrive in the last half of 2021, according to a July securities filing.
- According to the memo, American is planning to maintain its presence in Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America; fly a full schedule to London, Dublin and Madrid; and add a route between New York and Doha, Qatar.
Amazon Fined $1.3 Billion in Italian Antitrust Case – Wall Street Journal, 12/9/2021
- Italy’s antitrust regulator fined Amazon $1.3 billion, saying it harmed competitors by favoring third-party sellers that use the company’s logistics services, a decision that reflects increased scrutiny of tech giants by antitrust regulators globally.
- The regulator said Thursday that Amazon favored sellers in Italy that paid it to use its warehouse and delivery services, including by making them more likely to appear as the default option, or “Buy Box,” when consumers click to buy a product.
- In addition to the fine, the Italian regulator ordered Amazon to offer “fair and nondiscriminatory standards” for listings from third-party sellers, which it would monitor through an appointed trustee.
- The antitrust regulator’s two-year investigation found that in 2019 Amazon’s market share in online marketplaces was up to five times that of its closest competitor and that the gap has widened considerably in the past four years.
- Regulators allege that in practice it can be hard for outside companies to meet Amazon’s criteria to qualify for better placement on its site, saying that it effectively forces some sellers to use the company’s logistics services.
Apple Wins Delay in Monopoly Case, Allowing App Store Rules to Stay For Now – Wall Street Journal, 12/8/2021
- Apple on Wednesday won a U.S. appeals court reprieve in rolling out changes to the App Store ordered by a federal judge as part of the big tech company’s antitrust battle with Epic Games.
- The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the iPhone maker’s request to delay implementation of a federal judge’s order to force Apple to allow developers to communicate with users inside their apps about alternative payment methods outside of the App Store.
- The order means Apple will be able to delay, perhaps for years, putting in place some of the most significant changes ever to how it operates its lucrative App Store as the company and Epic seek broader appeals.
GM will launch Chevy Silverado E, GMC Sierra E in 2023 – Reuters, 12/9/2021
- General Motors will begin building the new Chevrolet Silverado E electric pickup in early 2023, Executive Vice President Doug Parks said at an investor conference on Thursday.
- The electric Silverado will be followed by the GMC Sierra E and ‘multiple’ electric vehicles in 2023, Parks said.
- GM plans to unveil the Silverado E in early January at the Consumer Electronics Show.
US ECONOMY & POLITICS
U.S. Jobless Claims Decline to Lowest Level Since 1969 – Bloomberg, 12/9/2021
- Applications for U.S. state unemployment benefits declined last week to the lowest level since 1969, illustrating difficulties adjusting the raw data for seasonal effects.
- Initial unemployment claims totaled 184,000 in the week ended Dec. 4, down 43,000 from the prior period, Labor Department data showed Thursday.
- The median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for 220,000 applications.
- On an unadjusted basis, initial claims climbed by about 64,000.
- The four-week moving average of initial applications, which smooths out large swings in the data, dropped to 218,750. That’s the lowest since March of last year.
- Continuing claims for state benefits rose to 1.99 million in the week ended Nov. 27, up 38,000 from the prior period.
- Most states reported increases in unadjusted claims last week, led by California, Texas and New York.
Inflation Near 40-Year High Shocks Americans, Spooks Washington – Bloomberg, 12/9/2021
- Already-hot inflation is forecast to climb even further when November data comes out on Friday, to 6.8%.
- That would be the highest rate since Ronald Reagan was president in the early 1980s — and in the lifetimes of most Americans.
- It’s likely to drive some big changes in the coming year, as the Fed pivots toward raising interest rates and the president heads into midterm elections with slumping approval ratings.
- One of the pandemic inflation’s headline-grabbing episodes came in lumber markets, where prices jumped about 70% from early March to early May –- adding steam to an incipient housing boom.
- For American business, those higher costs included wage bills. Employers were struggling to increase headcount fast enough to meet soaring demand.
- In June, Chipotle Mexican Grill made headlines by hiking prices some 4% to offset pay raises.
- Plenty more companies would join them as the year went on.
- Maybe the biggest unknown in 2022 is wages, already rising faster than at any point in the decade-long expansion that ended with the arrival of Covid-19.
Senators Want Social-Media Apps to Share Research – Wall Street Journal, 12/9/2021
- A bipartisan group of U.S. senators plans to introduce legislation that would require Meta Platforms and other social-media companies to provide outside researchers with data access.
- The bill, to be announced Thursday by Sens. Chris Coons (D., Del.) Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Amy Klobuchar (D.,Minn.), would allow researchers to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation.
- If the NSF supports a proposal, social-media platforms would be required to furnish the needed data, subject to privacy protections that could include anonymizing it or “white rooms” in which researchers could review sensitive material.
- The legislation would also give the Federal Trade Commission the authority to require regular disclosure of specific information by platforms, such as data about ad targeting.
- The bill would also bar social-media platforms from blocking independent research initiatives.
- Both researchers and platforms would be given a legal safe harbor related to privacy concerns.
U.S. October wholesale inventories revised slightly higher – Reuters, 12/9/2021
- The Commerce Department said on Thursday that wholesale inventories accelerated 2.3%, instead of 2.2% as estimated last month.
- Stocks at wholesalers increased 1.4% in September.
- Motor vehicle inventories rebounded 2.3% after falling 1.5% in September.
- Wholesale inventories, excluding autos, advanced 2.3% in October. This component goes into the calculation of GDP.
- A moderate pace of inventory drawdown in the third quarter accounted for all of the 2.1% annualized rate of increase in GDP growth last quarter.
- Sales at wholesalers increased 2.2% in October after rising 1.7% in September.
- At October’s sales pace it would take wholesalers 1.22 months to clear shelves, unchanged from September.
EUROPE & WORLD
Uber Workers Would Be Classed as Employees Under EU Proposal – Wall Street Journal, 12/9/2021
- The draft bill, proposed Thursday by the EU’s executive arm, would establish a presumption that many of the companies in what is often called the gig economy actually employ workers, depending on the level of control the companies exercise over how workers perform their jobs.
- The shift would apply to those companies if they meet certain criteria —like defining the pay for tasks and evaluating worker performance—though the companies could refute the presumption of employment in national courts across Europe.
- EU officials estimate that roughly 5 million of 28 million people who do what is also known as platform work in the bloc would be reclassified under the new rules.
- Uber, for its part, says that it wants to create standards for offering benefits while keeping its drivers independent, something it says they value.
- Under Thursday’s proposal, companies would be considered employers if they meet two out of five criteria, which include restricting a worker’s ability to work for third parties, limiting how they can decline to perform tasks, or setting pay levels or maximum fees.
WHO warns against vaccine hoarding as poorer countries go without – Reuters, 12/9/2021
- The World Health Organization warned wealthy countries on Thursday against hoarding COVID-19 vaccines for booster shots as they try to fight off the new Omicron variant, threatening supplies to poorer countries where inoculation rates are low.
- WHO’s vaccine director, Kate O’Brien’s warning came as supplies to the global COVAX vaccine-sharing programme run by the WHO and charity GAVI have increased in the past few months due to donations from wealthy countries and after India eased limits on exports of vaccines.
- The WHO has said in recent months that administering primary doses should be a priority and its vaccine advisory panel recommended on Thursday that people who are immunocompromised or received an inactivated vaccine should receive a booster.
U.S. Moves to Tighten Iran Sanctions Enforcement as Nuclear Talks Stall – Wall Street Journal, 12/9/2021
- The Biden administration is moving to tighten enforcement of sanctions against Iran, according to senior U.S. officials, the first sign of Washington increasing economic pressure on Tehran as diplomatic efforts to restore the 2015 nuclear deal falter.
- The U.S. officials will meet with petrochemicals companies and other private firms and banks in the U.A.E. doing billions of dollars of trade with Iran.
- The U.S. move comes as the prospects of restoring the 2015 nuclear deal appear increasingly gloomy.
- Negotiations to revive the agreement continue in Vienna on Thursday among Iran, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, although the U.S. delegation will only travel to Vienna at the weekend.
- The decision to start ratcheting up enforcement pressure in the U.A.E. partly reflects the role Emirati companies play in Iran trade and is partly aimed at averting a clash with China, Iran’s top trade partner and oil importer.
Macron says migration crises show need to strengthen EU’s borders – Reuters, 12/9/2021
- President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that reinforcing the European Union’s sovereignty, and notably its borders, would be France’s main priority during its presidency of the bloc, which starts on Jan.1.
- The bloc has been deeply divided for years in its response to immigration and how to police the common external borders of its Schengen area.
- Among France’s proposals will be setting up an emergency reaction capability to help EU states facing crises at their borders, Macron said.
- Macron faces a presidential election in April, and conservative and far-right parties are likely to make migration, on which he is viewed by some as a soft touch, a campaign issue.
- China declared war against Japan, Germany, and Italy. (1941)
- The anti-Communist John Birch Society was formed. (1958)
- U.S. astronauts completed repair work on the Hubble Space Telescope. (1993)