Cats and Dogs
…..S&P and Nasdaq hit record highs. Retail leads? Trade gap grows. OPEC extends cuts. GM cheats on diesel, too. Appeals court slams immigration ban. Trump and NATO like cats and dogs. Senate to repeal Obamacare in 2020. Nvidia’s charmed existence. Hurricane season. We’re number 5!
Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 05-25-2017
DOW + 70 = 21,082
SPX + 10 = 2415
NAS + 42 = 6205
RUT + 0.88 = 1383
10 Y – .01 = 2.25%
OIL – 2.50 = 48.82
GOLD – 3.20 = 1256.40
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq hit record closing highs. The surprising part is that retail led the charge. Best Buy beat profit expectations, reported a surprise increase same-store sales and provided an upbeat outlook. The net profit for the quarter dropped to $188 million, or 60 cents a share, from $229 million, or 70 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Still they blasted through analyst estimates. Best Buy shares jumped 22% today. Tommy Hilfiger owner PVH was the second-biggest S&P gainer with a 4.8-percent jump to a near 6-month high on strong results. Dollar Tree reported earnings that matched estimates. Sales rose 4%, while same-store sales rose 0.5%. Sears posted a quarterly loss on an adjusted basis. Revenue dropped. Same-store sales fell 11.2% in the quarter. But Sears recently announced cost cutting measures and they still have cash on hand for operations. Today, shares popped 12%.
The trade gap in goods—services are excluded—widened to $67.6 billion in April from $65.1 billion in March, the government said in its advanced report. The full report will be released on June 2. Exports of goods fell in April, while imports expanded; that means the trade gap will likely cut into second quarter gross domestic product. There had been hope for a big bounce back in the second quarter to make up for extremely sluggish first quarter growth of 0.7 percent, which had been blamed on temporary factors like weather. Housing data this week was also disappointing when new home sales fell 11.4 percent and existing home sales fell by 2.3 percent in April.
Initial jobless claims rose by 1,000 to 234,000 in the seven days stretching from May 14 to May 20. That’s just a few notches above the postrecession low set in February, and near the lowest level since April 1973. The U.S. economy has been churning out new jobs at a rapid pace since 2011, pulling the unemployment rate down to 4.4% and eliciting widespread complaints from businesses that they cannot find enough skilled workers to fill open positions, although not enough to push wages significantly higher.
OPEC agreed to extend oil production cuts for another 9 months, as expected. Oil traders were not impressed, maybe even disappointed cuts weren’t extended for 12 months. Production cuts have bolstered prices in the past, at least for a while, and then the euphoria fades – it just seemed to fade real fast today. Of course, there is more at play. The biggest beneficiary of price cuts might be the US shale producers, who are expected to increase their output by about 900,000 barrels a day this year, soaking up much of OPEC’s production cuts. Short-term projections call for a draw down in storage tanks in the coming weeks as the summer driving season gets underway, but the oil glut is likely to continue absent a big increase in demand – and the long-term outlook for demand faces headwinds from improved efficiency and conservation. And a move to more electric engines.
There is a definite move away from diesel. The whole idea of clean diesel is being shot down in lawsuit after lawsuit. It started with Volkswagen cheating on diesel emissions; then Mercedes, Peugeot, Renault, and Fiat Chrysler. Add GM to the list. GM is accused in a lawsuit of rigging hundreds of thousands of diesel trucks with devices similar to those used by Volkswagen AG, to ensure they pass emissions tests. The proposed class-action lawsuit covers people who own or lease more than 705,000 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups fitted with “Duramax” engines from the 2011 to 2016 model years. It said GM used at least three “defeat devices” to ensure that the trucks met federal and state emission standards, even if they generated more pollution in real-world driving. The complaint was filed in the federal court in Detroit.
In a 10-to-3 decision, a federal appeals court affirmed the freeze on the second iteration of President Trump’s executive order on immigration from six majority Muslim countries. The court said that national security “is not the true reason” for the order, despite Trump’s insistence to the contrary, saying it “drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.” Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Roger Gregory said Mr. Trump’s statements on the campaign trail concerning Muslims showed that the revised order was the product of religious hostility. Such discrimination, he wrote, violates the First Amendment’s ban on government establishment of religion. Trump issued his initial order on Jan. 27, a week into his presidency. Less than two weeks later, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed an order halting it. Though Trump vowed to fight the ruling, he did not appeal to the Supreme Court. Instead, he issued a revised executive order. Now that it has been struck down, he is again faced with the choice of whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.
President Trump was in Brussels for a NATO meeting and he intensified his accusations that NATO allies were not spending enough on defense and warned of more attacks like this week’s Manchester bombing unless the alliance did more to stop militants. In unexpectedly abrupt remarks as NATO leaders stood alongside him, Trump said certain member countries owed “massive amounts of money” to the United States and NATO — even though allied contributions are voluntary, with multiple budgets. His scripted comments contrasted with NATO’s choreographed efforts to play up the West’s unity by inviting Trump to unveil a memorial to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States at the new NATO headquarters building in Brussels. Now, two of Germany’s leading newspapers are reporting that in a meeting with the EU’s top leadership he insulted Germany, calling the Germans “bad, very bad” for their running a trade surplus with the US and threatening to cut off car imports to the US. The European Union said it doesn’t share a common position with Trump on Russia, while differences remain in key policy areas, including climate change and trade, adding to signs of strain in the world’s closest political and economic alliance.
Senate Republicans are weighing a two-step process to replace Obamacare that would postpone a repeal until 2020, as they seek to draft a more modest version than a House plan that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office analysts said would undermine some insurance markets. Republicans say they may first take action to stabilize premium costs in Obamacare’s insurance-purchasing exchanges in 2018 and 2019. Major insurers have said they will leave the individual market in several states. A Senate plan is likely to continue subsidies that help low-income Americans with co-pays and deductibles. The Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday that the House plan narrowly passed May 4 would result in 23 million more people without insurance and, in some states, plans that are too costly for older or sicker people. A Quinnipiac University national poll released today said Americans voters disapprove of the House measure by 57 to 20 percent.
Nvidia has enjoyed a particularly charmed existence since November 8. The graphics-chip maker’s stock price has exploded 95% higher since then, the biggest gain in the S&P 500 by almost 30 percentage points. On one hand, the company has been targeted by large speculators as a stock likely to decline, as reflected by the roughly $3 billion in short positions held by hedge funds. But it’s also one of the favorite stocks for millennial investors. And while share prices across the technology industry as a whole have soared since the election, Nvidia has even more going for it than strength by association and the adoration of millennials. On Wednesday, SoftBank announced a $4 billion stake in the company, sending shares climbing even higher. In the grand scheme of things, this discrepancy between large institutions and individual investors is nothing new to the stock market. Some people get drawn in by the hype and the prospect of a quick profit, while others get worried that valuations are overextended.
The United States can expect an Atlantic hurricane season with more than the usual number of storms. The season, which begins June 1 and runs to Nov. 30, is likely to produce 11 to 17 named storms. Experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say as many as nine of those could become hurricanes, with winds of 74 miles per hour or higher, and as many as four could be major hurricanes with winds of 111 m.p.h. or greater, also known as Category 3 or higher. In an average season, 12 named storms develop, and three of them become major hurricanes. The agency said there was only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season this year. In 2016, NOAA forecast 10 to 16 named storms; fifteen storms developed, including four hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.
Phoenix is the nation’s fifth largest city. Estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau show Phoenix last July surpassed Philadelphia, its closest population rival, for the first time after losing the title in 2010. The 2016 data puts Phoenix’s total population at 1,615,017. The average 88 people per day the city added between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016 gives Phoenix another national distinction: It’s the fastest-growing city in the country, based on numeric increase. Phoenix isn’t the only place growing in Arizona. Maricopa County has the nation’s highest annual population increase among counties, according to recent census statistics.