Financial Review

Roll a Grenade onto the Dance Floor

…..Dow, S&P, and Nasdaq go red for November. Individual tax breaks may be temporary. Skinny repeal might blow up tax bill. First GOP tax defector. Retail sales slow. CPI Inflation rises. Earnings

…Financial Review by Sinclair Noe for 11-15-2017

 

DOW – 138 = 23,271
SPX – 14 = 2564
NAS – 31 = 6706
RUT – 7 = 1464
10 Y – .05 = 2.34%
OIL – .41 = 55.29
GOLD – 2.20 = 1278.60

 

The Dow industrials are now down for the month of November. The S&P and Nasdaq are also in the red for the month.  Oil prices fell for a fourth session after data showed an increase in crude and gasoline stockpiles. The S&P 500 energy sector notched a four-day decline of 4 percent, its weakest such period in 14 months. Since the third-quarter reporting season began a month ago, companies saying earnings will beat analyst estimates have outnumbered those predicting they will miss by a ratio of 1.2-to-1. That’s the highest for any similar stretch since 2010. And the S&P 500 is down about 1.5% from its record high on Nov. 7. Even with the pullback, the S&P 500 is up a healthy 14.5 percent this year. Unlike October’s broad market rally, fewer stocks and sectors have been notching gains this month, and the latest market decline reflects that. Equity bulls says there’s more to come if you can ride out the current storm. Bears say this could be an early indicator of an even bigger drop. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

 

The gap between two- and 10-year Treasury yields shrunk to a new low for the year on Wednesday at 64 basis points, which is down from 136 basis points at the end of last year and the smallest difference since 2007. This move is important because a narrowing yield curve is typically associated with slower economic growth, and a full-on inversion is a sign that a recession is on the horizon. The other big concern in markets right is junk bonds. The market has also suffered a swift and sharp selloff in the last week. Investors are now demanding an extra 4.06 percentage points in yield to own U.S. dollar-denominated corporate debt rather than Treasuries.

 

The tax bill working its way through Congress just gets worse and worse. We keep hearing that this is a tax cuts for middle class America but that’s just temporary. Tax cuts for individuals would expire in a few years under the Senate plan, which means tax cuts today would end up being tax hikes tomorrow. Cuts in business taxes, however, would remain permanent. The tweaks by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch on Tuesday largely move to make the bill comply with Senate budget rules. Major analyses so far have estimated that versions of the Senate bill would cut the tax burden on most Americans. However, millions of middle-income people could end up seeing a tax increase, due to the plan’s elimination of provisions like state and local tax deductions.

 

Also yesterday, the Senate tossed in the idea of repealing the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, eliminating the requirement that people actually have insurance coverage. They tried this with the skinny repeal over the summer, and it did not pass. Now they are bringing back the failed idea, and they still don’t have anything to replace Obamacare, just sort of repeal it, or kill it off. Obamacare has many moving parts that interact with each other. The individual mandate has a particularly strong tie to the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The rationale is that if the government is going to force insurance companies to cover everyone, then it must deliver a big insurance pool with a lot of healthy people in it. About 70% of people support the idea of having protections for pre-existing conditions. The individual mandate is a little less popular; about 50% supported that piece of the puzzle and 47% oppose – call it an even split.  In August 2017, pollsters framed the issue in terms of “President Trump taking actions to make the law (Obamacare) fail.” Put that way, only one-third, 31 percent, said they wanted Trump to stop enforcing the mandate, and two-thirds said it should be enforced. The idea behind eliminating the individual mandate in tax legislation is that it would save the federal government about $338 billion over 10 years – and the tax cut writers need to find some more money because the tax plan as written blows a “too big” hole in the deficit – even if 13 million people would lose insurance coverage, and premiums for insurance coverage go up 10% for those remaining. Just a side note – this is Obamacare open enrollment season and Americans enrolled in almost 1.5 million Affordable Care Act health plans on healthcare.gov in the first 11 days of the open enrollment period, a 47 percent increase over a similar period last year.

 

Then today, they toss in the idea of making individual taxpayers cuts temporary. Federal debt as a percentage of GDP is only going up, and at some point, Congress will no longer be able to keep putting off the day of reckoning. Meanwhile, hardly any taxpayers are going to put money aside in anticipation of higher taxes in 2026, setting the stage for a national financial shock. In a word, this idea is just stupid. If tax cuts aren’t permanent, they shouldn’t be there. White House economic advisor Gary Cohn was a guest speaker at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council. Republicans and the Trump administration have argued that tax cuts for businesses would lead companies to investment more and raise wages for workers. The moderator then asked those in attendance whether they were planning to increase their business investment if the tax bill became law. A few hands were raised, but most – the vast majority –  stayed down.

 

Today, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said he won’t vote for the current tax plan. Johnson, a businessman before he became senator, contends the current plan helps big corporations more than smaller companies. He said he’s also frustrated by the rushed process to pass tax legislation. Johnson is a Republican. There are 52 Republican senators. If 2 more oppose the legislation – it is dead on the vine. A final vote on the House’s version of the tax-overhaul is expected on Thursday. The senate plans to vote before Thanksgiving – if they can whip the votes.

 

Retail sales slowed in October after a sharp gain in the prior month. Sales rose 0.2% in October. Sales rose a revised 1.9% in September, up from the prior estimate of a 1.6% gain, boosted by post-hurricane spending. Excluding autos, sales rose 0.1% after a 1.2% gain in September. Economists were expecting a 0.2% gain. Sales excluding autos and gasoline climbed 0.3%. Growth in consumer spending has been healthy, with retail sales up 4.6% over the past year. Today’s retail numbers, although down from the previous month, still look positive for the economy heading into the holiday shopping season.

 

The consumer price index, or prices at the retail level,  rose 0.1% in October, held down by falling energy prices, the Labor Department said. This was in line with forecasts. If food and energy are stripped out, core CPI rose a slightly larger 0.2%. The drop in energy prices in the CPI pushed the yearly rate of inflation down to 2% from 2.2% in September. Yet the more closely followed core rate rose at a 1.8% annual rate, up from 1.7% in September and the fastest pace since April. Adjusted for inflation, hourly wages fell 0.1%. Over the past year “real” wages have risen just 0.4%. The producer price index, a measure of inflation at the wholesale level, increased 0.4 percent last month after a similar gain in September. That lifted the year-on-year increase in the PPI to 2.8 percent, the largest rise since February 2012.

 

Inflation by the Fed’s preferred measure, core personal consumption expenditures (PCE), was just 1.6 percent in September. Wages are rising slightly, American consumers are spending their money and prices are following suit in signs that a continued economic recovery sets the stage for a Federal Reserve rate rise in December and the cycle beyond that, despite concerns over low levels of inflation.

 

Cisco Systems reported a 3.1 percent rise in quarterly profit, driven by growth in its newer areas, such as security, and lower expenses. Net income rose to $2.39 billion, or 48 cents per share, in the first quarter ended Oct. 28, from $2.32 billion, or 46 cents per share, a year earlier. Total revenue fell to $12.14 billion from $12.35 billion.

 

Mattel has rebuffed Hasbro’s latest takeover approach. Mattel has informed Hasbro its proposal undervalues the company and does not take sufficiently into account the potential for regulators to reject the deal based on antitrust concerns. The terms of any possible deal have not been revealed and it is not clear whether negotiations between the two companies will continue.

 

Target earned a profit of 91 cents per share in the third quarter, beating the average estimate of 86 cents. Sales rose 1.4 percent to $16.67 billion, topping the average estimate $16.61 billion. Third-quarter same-store sales topped estimates, rising 0.9 percent in the quarter, and price cuts drove a 24 percent jump in comparable online sales. Shares dropped about 10% today. Target’s holiday-quarter profit forecast fell short of analyst expectations. Target has missed Wall Street’s fourth-quarter profit expectations for the past two years. It is gearing up for the holidays by cutting prices and introducing delivery options to compete with Wal-Mart and online sellers, moves that can lure customers but crimp margins.

 

Wal-mart reports earnings tomorrow.

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