…..Sen. McCain says no to repeal and replace. Next up, tax reform, unless the world ends tomorrow. Nafta negotiations continue. Sprint-TMobile. Apple falls. FAANG competition. Uber out of London. Voting systems hacked.
Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 09-22-2017
DOW – 9 = 22,349
SPX + 1 = 2502
NAS + 4 = 6426
RUT + 6 = 1450
10 Y – .02 = 2.26%
OIL + .11 = 50.66
GOLD + 6.50 = 1298.10
Is that true? Is it possible that the Dow Industrial Average actually went down for 2 consecutive sessions? It has been about a month since we have had back to back loses on the Dow. For the week, the Dow rose 0.4%, the S&P rose 0.1%, and the Nasdaq fell 0.3%.
Sen. John McCain announced today in a statement that he cannot “in good conscience” vote for the GOP’s latest plan to overhaul Obamacare, likely ending Republicans’ latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. McCain wrote: “I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried. Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will (affect) insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it. Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions.” McCain’s “no” vote means it is likely Republicans won’t be able to repeal and replace Obamacare before September 30, as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said he would not back Graham-Cassidy and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has said she is leaning “no” on the proposal. But there are still questions as to where Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski is at the moment. Bottom line, 3 no votes kills the Graham-Cassidy bill but it won’t really die – not yet. Republicans can now write and pass another budget for fiscal 2018 that uses the same reconciliation procedure for health care legislation. The trick would be combining it with a major tax overhaul, since the GOP is aiming to use reconciliation for that as well. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said today there’s “a chance” of combining the two efforts in a 2018 budget resolution.
McCain torpedoed the last GOP bill in July, returning to the Senate after being diagnosed with brain cancer only to cast a surprising and dramatic 50th vote against a limited-repeal of Obamacare offered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But until today, he was officially undecided on the Graham-Cassidy proposal, apparently torn between his disgust for the party’s rushed, partisan legislative process and his famously close friendship with Graham, its most vocal salesman. McCain acknowledged that his friendship with Graham put him in a difficult spot. “I take no pleasure in announcing my opposition. Far from it,” he said. “The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the country. So am I.” After the announcement, Graham tweeted: “My friendship with @SenJohnMcCain is not based on how he votes but respect for how he’s lived his life and the person he is.” Absolutely correct.
The latest repeal and replace defeat deepens doubt surrounding the GOP’s ability to get healthy on tax reform. The Senate’s late-July rejection of the initial push to repeal and replace Obamacare gave Republicans a chance to cut their losses. Congress could have begun a limited bipartisan effort to stabilize insurance marketplaces – which have grown in popularity during this year’s repeal battle — while the GOP moved on to the tax debate that unites the party more. The much-anticipated tax plan crafted by the Trump administration and Republican congressional leadership is expected to be unveiled Wednesday, and that could provide positive momentum for stocks in the final week of the quarter. The S&P 500 is up 3.3 percent for the quarter so far. The Dow is up more than 4.6 percent for the quarter. The Nasdaq is up 4.7 percent for the quarter.
From what we have learned about the Graham-Cassidy bill, it wasn’t any better than earlier repeal efforts, and maybe worse. The ACA has plenty of problems but those problems would not be corrected by Graham-Cassidy. It probably didn’t help that all 50 Medicaid directors – that is every state – opposed the GOP’s latest health care bill, and a Brookings report indicated at least 21 million would lose insurance.
Have you heard that the world will end tomorrow? I am not making this up, someone else is. The Armageddon rumors sparked when a Christian numerologist called David Meade suggested Nibiru would plough into our planet on September 23. It’s all over the inter-webs. Meade says Arizona is a good place to survive the collision. I don’t really know why that is. But I think, if there was a mystery planet headed for a collision with Earth, we might have seen it by now. So, will the world end tomorrow? Computer says… no.
But the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea might just blow up a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean. On Tuesday, during his speech at the United Nations, President Trump said his government would “totally destroy North Korea” if necessary to defend the United States or its allies. On Friday, Kim Jong Un responded, saying North Korea “will consider with seriousness exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.” The North Korean leader didn’t elaborate on the nature of this countermeasure, but his foreign minister provided a hint: North Korea might test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean. Atomic weapons are typically tested underground. An explosion on or above water would have nasty repercussions. More than 60 years after the United States tested a series of atomic bombs near Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands, the island remains “unlivable”.
There are signs that Mexico and Canada are increasingly less worried by the idea of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) falling apart. Mexico’s foreign minister Luis Videgaray says “Mexico is much bigger than NAFTA,” arguing that an average 3% increase in tariffs that he thinks would come if NAFTA ended wouldn’t stop trade with the US. With negotiations among the US, Mexico, and Canada due to resume this weekend, he went further: “If NAFTA goes away…it’s not the end of the world.”
Shares of Sprint gained about 6% and T-Mobile gained about 1%, after Reuters said the companies are close to agreeing to tentative terms on a merger. Japan’s Softbank Group, Sprint’s majority shareholder, will own 40% to 50% of the combined entity. T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom will own a majority stake.
Apple launched its new line of smartphones and watches, and turned in their worst weekly performance for the week of a major product launch since the original iPhone was released back in 2007, following less-than-stellar product reviews. There has been a tendency for Apple to slip after a product launch – buy the hype and sell the reality – but this week was particularly bad as Apple dropped 5%. That’s a loss of $50 billion dollars in market cap – Still, many investors are looking at it as a chance to buy. On Tuesday, shares barely managed a gain after ho-hum iPhone 8 reviews. On Wednesday, shares dropped 1.7% after a few prominent Apple Watch Series 3 reviews complained about spotty connectivity, an issue Apple acknowledged it was seeking to solve. Thursday’s 1.7% decline followed an announcement that Google is spending $1.1 billion on a cooperation agreement with smartphone manufacturer HTC to produce the Pixel smartphone.
The FAANG companies – Facebook, Apple, Amazon.com, Netflix and Google holding company Alphabet have been able to put up stellar growth numbers for quite some time, without competing very much with each other. That’s starting to change. Consider the case of Oracle, which announced fairly solid growth in its cloud business but offered up weak guidance – shares were slammed. It looks like Oracle might not have a big slice of the Cloud Pie. That leaves Amazon and Google, and maybe Microsoft to slug it out. Google is investing in smartphones to battle it out with Apple. Facebook has been vying with Google over ad clicks. Amazon and Google are fighting over which device will power your home – Alexa or Google assistant. And how will you watch TV in the future? On YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Instant video, or Netflix, which now comes complimentary with a subscription on T-Mobile. The most amazing thing of all is that it has taken us the better part of two decades to arrive at a moment when tech companies actually see themselves as competitors. It will be very interesting to see how this new-found competition plays out because the future of the FAANGs is going to tell us a lot about the future of Wall Street, considering the FAANGs represent over $3 trillion in market capitalization — roughly 13% of the entire S&P 500.
London is one of Uber’s largest and most lucrative markets, with 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million people who use the app once every 90 days. But that number may soon be reduced to zero. The city’s regulator, Transport for London, said it denied the license because Uber’s “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility.” Its license will expire on Sept. 30, although the company has 21 days to appeal—which it intends to do—and can carry on operating during the appeal process. The move is a win for taxis, but maybe not so much for customers.
The federal government told election officials in 21 states, including Arizona, that hackers targeted their systems last year, although in most cases the systems were not breached. The government told The Associated Press last year that more than 20 states were targeted by hackers believed to be Russian agents before the 2016 elections. But for many states, the calls Friday from the Department of Homeland Security were the first official confirmation of whether their states were on the list.