A Quiet Friday in August
…..Here comes Horrible Harvey. Yellen’s last hurrah in Jackson Hole. Cohn hangs in. Mnuchin expects tax reform by end of year. Investors pull money out of US stocks. Samsung’s Lee sentenced. YouTube TV covers half the country.
Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 08-25-2017.
DOW + 30 = 21,813
SPX + 4 = 2443
NAS – 5 = 6265
RUT + 3 = 1377
10 Y – .02 = 2.17%
OIL + .43 = 47.86
GOLD + 5.00 = 1291.80
For the week, the Dow rose 0.65 percent, the S&P 500 gained 0.72 percent and the Nasdaq climbed 0.79 percent. The weekly gains for equities snapped a two-week skid of declines for the Dow and S&P 500 and a four-week drop for the Nasdaq.
Hurricane Harvey projected to make landfall around Corpus Christi, Texas between 10 PM and midnight but it is now hitting the Texas coast with heavy wind and rain. The storm is more accurately stretched along a wide swath of the coast, with heavy rains as far east as New Orleans and inland beyond San Antonio. Harvey is now a Category 3 storm, meaning the government now classifies it as a “major” hurricane with 120-mph winds and gusts over 150-mph. Harvey, the strongest storm to hit the U.S. since Wilma in 2005, is forecast to inundate Houston, Corpus Christi and Galveston, cities with more than 2.6 million people combined, with drenching rain and dangerous flooding. Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for 30 counties. The storm may generate $1.9 billion of economic losses and $1.3 billion in insured losses.
The problem with this hurricane is they don’t see it trailing off in any direction so it’s just going to hover Harvey could deliver a one-two punch that could also spell trouble for the Houston Ship Channel. One forecast model shows the storm returning to the Gulf of Mexico before making a second landfall closer to Galveston, sending a storm surge into the channel, which carries more than 163 million tons of cargo per year. The surge, coupled with the rains, could bring about water levels higher than ever recorded in the Houston metropolitan area. A storm surge of up to 12 feet may occur near the Padre Island National Seashore. Storm surges account for close to half of all hurricane deaths. It is definitely going to be an issue for the ship channels.
Harvey may dump as much as 35 inches of rain on areas of Texas over the next week. Usually, you don’t get peak rainfall and peak surge at the same time. If the forecast holds for Houston, rainwater would be running down streams and rivers while ocean water is surging up to meet it. In other words, that unprecedented amount of rain will have nowhere to go. A large metro area like Houston is also particularly vulnerable to flooding. Large swathes of the city are concrete and asphalt, which prevents rainwater from properly draining. It doesn’t help that Houston is naturally a low-lying city with clay soil that doesn’t drain well anyway. Sewage drainage will probably be a problem and clean water may also be affected. And not just humans are affected – all sorts of wildlife will be moving to higher ground.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is sending staff and supplies to the region. Flooding will probably close roads and inundate power plants, while strong winds may disrupt utilities’ systems and knock out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses. Anadarko Petroleum, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell are among the energy explorers that have shut platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Midstream LP shut nat gas capacity in south-central Texas; and Enbridge evacuated non-essential workers from some platforms. BNSF was halting traffic from Galveston Island late Thursday and holding Galveston-bound trains until further notice. Cameron LNG begins evacuating workers ahead of Hurricane Harvey. Gasoline futures hit a 4-month high in intraday trade. It is estimated the hurricane will push gas prices up by about 10-cents per gallon in the short-term. One of the worst things that can happen to a wind farm is too much wind. The storm could knock out between 2.1 and 3.6 gigawatts of power near the Texas coast.
The weather is fine in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It’s a nice place to go fly fishing. This morning, Janet Yellen delivered what is probably her final speech to the Jackson Hole Economic Summit, an annual gathering of central bankers. Yellen defended the government’s response to the 2008 financial-market meltdown while outlining some areas that regulators could review to improve efficiency in the financial system. Yellen focused on financial regulation and veered away from monetary policy. Yellen said reforms put in place after the 2007 to 2009 crisis have strengthened the financial system without impeding economic growth and any changes to these rules should remain modest. That pretty much signals that she is not expecting to be re-nominated when her term expires in February.
European Central Bank president Mario Draghi also spoke at Jackson Hole. Draghi said he still is not seeing much inflation in the Eurozone and “a significant degree of monetary accommodation is still warranted.” Draghi said protectionist policies pose a “serious risk” for growth in the global economy.
Gary Cohn, who was president of Goldman Sachs before accepting a position in the Trump administration as head of the White House national economic council, is considered the front-runner to replace Yellen as the next Chair of the Federal Reserve. Today Cohn said he had come under “enormous pressure” to resign after Trump equivocated in his denunciation of white supremacist groups, saying there had been “very fine people on both sides” at the demonstrations. The economic adviser said he had considered stand down but decided to stay on after discussions with the president. The New York Times reported he had gone as far as drafting a letter of resignation.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday the nation’s debt ceiling will be raised in September and that after talks with congressional leaders from both parties everyone is “on the same page.” Mnuchin says he’s hopeful about getting a tax-code overhaul done by the end of this year after flatly stating he was “wrong” about finishing a deal by August.
Investors are fleeing U.S. stocks in a way they haven’t since 2004. According to a new Bank of America Merrill Lynch, for 10 straight weeks a total of $30 billion has left U.S. stocks, marking the longest streak of outflows since 2004. Investors turned instead to emerging markets and European and Japanese stocks, which saw $36 billion in inflows over the last 10 weeks. The 10-week outflow from U.S. stocks comes despite the S&P 500’s nearly 1 percent gain this quarter and a record high on Aug. 8. Some of the top sectors of the year have seen significant outflows, including tech, financials, and the consumer sectors. The only sector that has seen inflows – defense stocks. By investing style, investors withdrew $1.6 billion from U.S. growth stock funds and $1.1 billion from U.S. value stock funds
A South Korean court found Lee Jae-yong, heir to the Samsung empire and its de facto leader, guilty on charges of bribery and embezzlement, and other crimes. The court sentenced Lee to five years in prison. That’s less than the 12-year term prosecutors were hoping for. But it’s long enough to ensure that he will actually spend time behind bars. Lee’s father, Lee Kun-hee, himself was once convicted for tax evasion, but he never served prison time because sentences of up to three years can be suspended. The ruling puts a cap on months of proceedings that tied the country’s single most important company to a corruption scandal revolving around former president Park Geun-hye. Park was impeached in March and is herself separately on trial. The court found Lee guilty of providing $6.3 million in bribes to Park’s personal confidante, to secure approval for a merger between two Samsung subsidiary companies that gave Lee more power at the expense of other shareholders. Lee will appeal the conviction. The conviction also marks a win for Koreans hoping to hold accountable the country’s chaebol—the country’s family-run conglomerates, which the public has increasingly resented for their corruption and grip on the economy. Newly-elected president Moon Jae-in made chaebol reform a key part of his campaign platform. From exploding phones to execs charged with embezzlement, it has been an eventful year for Samsung, and none of those problems seem to matter. Samsung shares have gained 40% over the past year, a rise worth some $85 billion in market cap.
YouTube has expanded the internet-delivered YouTube TV subscription service into 14 new U.S. markets, which makes it available to half of all U.S. households. YouTube added the Phoenix market in July. According to Google, YouTube TV now offers the most markets with live local broadcast feeds from the four major broadcasters — ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC — than any over-the-top competitor. Rivals in the space include AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Dish Network’s Sling TV, Hulu, Sony’s PlayStation Vue and FuboTV. However, the YouTube TV “skinny bundle” is missing big chunks of the cable dial. Unavailable on the service: networks from Turner, including CNN, TBS and TNT; Viacom; Discovery Communications; and Scripps Networks Interactive. HBO also isn’t available as an option, but Showtime is. How much traction YouTube TV has gained to date isn’t fully clear; Google hasn’t released any subscriber numbers. But the service, and the other OTT contenders, are clearly appealing to a consumer segment that’s looking for a cheaper alternative to cable, satellite and telco TV — and traditional pay-TV customers are continuing to dwindle.
After weeks of relative slumber, gold traders were rudely awoken to a surge in volume and volatility. In a span of one minute, gold futures contracts equaling more than 2 million ounces traded. Prices spike, then dropped just as fast, and gold settled slightly higher for the session. We don’t know who or why. But so much for a quiet Friday in late August.