…..Mega-techs stumble again. Brits sort through election results. Avoiding a government default. Another block on the travel ban. Session to testify publicly before Senate. Sessions subpoena for Arpaio trial. Puerto Rico wants to be the 51st star. SCOTUS cuts time for biologics, bails out Microsoft. Immelt out at GE. GE-Baker Hughes deal is a go. The Uber implosion. Gymboree BK. F-35 has an oxygen problem.
Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 06-12-2017
DOW – 36 = 21,235
SPX – 2 = 2429
NAS – 32 = 6175
RUT – 2 = 1419
10 Y + .01 = 2.21%
OIL + .17 = 46.00
GOLD – .90 = 1266.50
The Dow Industrials fell from record highs, with an inside trading session that does not look like a reversal, not yet anyway. The Nasdaq Composite confirmed its sharp downturn on Friday. Really, it was just five mega-tech stocks that accounted for 75% of the Nasdaq’s drop. Apple, Microsoft and Goggle parent Alphabet account for nearly 30 percent of the index’s weighting, and their outsize impact has driven the gauge lower even though the bulk of the stocks are doing fine. What has sparked the so-called tech wreck isn’t exactly clear, but Goldman Sachs issued a report last Friday entitled, “Is FANG Mispriced?” More important is whether this is a short-term correction or the sign of something more ominous. One or two days down does not make a trend, but a trend can start with a couple of down days. At this point, most analysts see this as a pause after a very strong and fast rally in the mega-tech names. The good news is that money is not leaving stocks, just rotating to different sectors. On a net basis, investors sent $1.9 billion to ETFs focused on U.S. equities Friday, five times the money sent to fixed income. While tech ETFs experienced withdrawals of about $510 million (and the Fang stocks lost $126 billion in market cap), financials had inflows of almost $1 billion and energy took in $120 million.
Tomorrow will kick off a busy week for economic data – we’ll get the latest producer price index, which is expected to be flat. Wednesday morning brings the consumer price index and retail sales data. Wednesday afternoon brings a statement from the Federal Reserve on monetary policy. A federal funds rate increase is widely expected, so the more market-sensitive elements of the Fed’s meeting will relate to signals regarding future policy action — either the path for the rates going forward or plans regarding a reduction in the central bank’s $4.5 trillion balance sheet.
The British pound sterling continued falling today, marking its worst two-day decline since October. Last week’s election saw Prime minister Theresa May’s Tories falling short of a majority in Parliament. While the Tories are expected to cobble a slim coalition, May will now govern from a position of weakness. Some of May’s most senior ministers are plotting to soften her approach to leaving the bloc, potentially keeping the country in the single-market and customs union. By contrast, hard-line Brexit supporters are determined to force through the prime minister’s plans for a clean break.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had previously set an August deadline for the federal government to avoid a default. Mnuchin said he still prefers that Congress increase the government’s authority to borrow before lawmakers leave on a five-week break in August. However, he said he is “comfortable” that the Treasury Department can meet the government’s financial obligations through the start of September.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously upheld an earlier decision by a federal judge in Hawaii to block the government from enforcing Trump’s executive order for a “travel ban” that would restrict refugees and people from six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US. The Supreme Court asked two groups challenging the travel ban to file legal papers by Monday. Once it receives the briefs it sought, the court could act at any time.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify publicly to a Senate panel tomorrow. It had been unclear whether Sessions would testify in an open or closed setting. Sessions is likely to face tough questioning from Senate Intelligence Committee members over his dealings with Russian officials during the campaign and whether he had a role in the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, who testified last week before the same panel.
Along with testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee this week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions can expect a subpoena from lawyers for a former Maricopa county Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Arpaio is presently being prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department for allegedly violating a federal judge’s order to cease immigration enforcement. Arpaio’s trial is scheduled to begin June 26. Sessions could challenge the subpoena to testify. The defense attorneys hope to use Sessions to underscore the irony of Arpaio being prosecuted by the very entity that is using the threat of pulling federal funds to get cities to do essentially what their client is accused of doing. The case will be before Judge Susan Bolton, the very one who upheld SB 1070, the Arizona state law that requires cops to act on a “reasonable suspicion” that someone they have detained is in the country illegally. As it now stands, the outcome will be decided solely by Bolton, not by a jury.
Puerto Rico voted overwhelmingly in favor of statehood on Sunday in a referendum that begins the steps toward sending representatives to Washington, DC. It was a landslide, with 97 percent voting for statehood, though turnout was only about 23 percent. Puerto Rico previously voted in favor of becoming a state in 2012, but statehood opponents said the voter turnout was not high enough to accurately reflect will of the Puerto Rican people. Some fear that they will make the same case this time around.
The Supreme Court cut the time it will take for copycat versions of biologic drugs to get to market. In a unanimous ruling, the justices overturned a lower court’s decision that had prevented Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis from selling its copycat version of Amgen’s Neupogen until six months after the US Food and Drug Administration approved it. The decision has major implications for the pharmaceutical industry because it will dictate how long brand-name makers of biologic drugs can keep near-copies, called biosimilars, off the market. Even the six months at issue in the case can mean hundreds of millions of dollars in sales. Health insurers expect biosimilars to be cheaper than original brands, like generics, saving consumers billions of dollars each year.
In a separate case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Microsoft in its bid to fend off class action claims by Xbox 360 owners who said the videogame console gouges discs because of a design defect. In a 8-0 ruling, the court overturned a 2015 decision by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed console owners to appeal the dismissal of their class action lawsuit by a federal judge in Seattle in 2012. Typically parties cannot appeal a class certification ruling until the entire case has reached a conclusion. But the 9th Circuit allowed the console owners to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit so they could immediately appeal the denial of a class certification. The court ruled such a move was not permitted because a voluntary dismissal of a lawsuit is not a final decision and thus cannot be appealed.
Jeffrey Immelt is stepping down as chairman and chief executive of General Electric. Amid mounting pressure from activist investor Trian Fund Management for operational changes, GE said Immelt will be replaced by John Flannery, a 30-year company veteran who oversaw a jump in profits at the health-care unit. Of all companies that remain in the Dow Jones Industrial Average since Sept. 7, 2001, when Jeffrey Immelt took over as chief executive officer of GE. GE’s stock has been by far the worst performer, and one of only two that have declined. GE’s stock has plunged 29.6% since Immelt took control through Friday.
Meanwhile, GE won US antitrust approval to merge its oil and gas business with Baker Hughes to form a new publicly traded company. GE and Baker Hughes announced the deal in October, months after Halliburton’s effort to buy Baker Hughes collapsed under pressure from the Justice Department. Under the agreement, GE will combine Baker Hughes with its oil and gas business, creating a company with $23 billion in annual revenue, the companies said. GE will pay existing Baker Hughes shareholders $7.4 billion for a special dividend.
Meanwhile, another CEO with a rocky tenure — Travis Kalanick of Uber — may be taking a leave of absence. Uber’s board of directors met Sunday to mull over how to reverse the ride-hail company’s slow-motion implosion. Board members voted to unanimously adopt all the recommendations from a recent investigation into Uber’s culture of pervasive sexism and harassment. They also discussed the fate of two of the company’s top executives, CEO Travis Kalanick and senior vice president of business Emil Michael. Michael is out. We’ll learn Kalanick fate tomorrow, maybe.
Time for today’s edition of Retail Armageddon, featuring Gymboree. The children’s clothing retailer announced it was seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Gymboree has been in discussions with lenders since the beginning of the year as it grapples with a heavy debt load, much of which stems from Bain Capital’s $1.8 billion leveraged buyout of the retailer in 2010. In conjunction with the filing, the company said it secured commitments for up to $308 million in additional financing. Public filings show Gymboree has more than $1 billion in outstanding debt, of which about $872 million is due in less than a year.
The U.S. Air Force has temporarily canceled flying operations of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 jets at Luke Air Force base in Arizona. The move comes after a series of five incidents in which pilots experienced hypoxia-like symptoms – in other words, they weren’t getting enough oxygen. Since May 2, pilots of five F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the air force base have reported physiological incidents while flying