Wall Street Breakfast: How Will The Wild Week End?

by: Wall Street Breakfast
Wall Street Breakfast
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While U.S. futures are pointing higher, stocks may continue to retest January's lows today, as traders await retail sales and consumer sentiment figures. Equities were rocked Thursday as Fed Chair Janet Yellen returned to Congress, stressing that the central bank was not on a "preset" path to return policy to "normal" and "wouldn't take negative rates off the table." Whether the share plunge was due to central bank mistrust, low oil prices, health of the global economy or other common story lines, one thing is clear - investors are still looking for cover.


Oil is rebounding from the lowest level in more than 12 years as speculation swirls over whether producers will act to bolster the market. "Prices are not appropriate, I won't say for the majority only, but for all producers," UAE Energy Minister Al Mazrouei declared, highlighting that suppliers won’t make cuts unless there is complete cooperation. Despite the move higher, crude is still poised for a second weekly drop due to brimming inventories and forecasts that prices will remain low until the second half of the year. Oil futures +4.9% to $27.50/bbl.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting with his top financial diplomat today, as well as the BOJ's governor, amid a report that the "architect of Abenomics" called for a Group of 20-wide response to the recent market rout. Friday's high-level gathering came as the country's stock markets plunged again and the yen hit highs not seen since October 2014. Speculation is also rampant that Tokyo could conduct yen-selling intervention to shield its export-reliant economy from further currency spikes. Nikkei -4.8%.

The eurozone economy grew at a quarterly rate of 0.3% in the final three months of 2015, as resilience in Germany helped offset weaker-than-expected growth in countries including France and Italy. GDP growth was in line with expectations and matched the 0.3% expansion during the prior quarter, though divergences across the region highlight ongoing struggles. The latest health check comes ahead of the ECB's meeting in March, when it will decide whether a new round of economic stimulus is needed to safeguard the region.

The first case of Zika has been identified in Alabama, marking the virus' appearance in 20 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Zika is transmitted through the bites of Aedes mosquitoes, but could also be passed through sexual contact or blood transfusion. Besides potential birth defects, the CDC has confirmed that two U.S. women (who recently contracted the disease while traveling abroad) miscarried after returning home, and the virus was found in their placentas.

Christine Lagarde is set to win a second term as managing director of the International Monetary Fund, after a nominee deadline passed with no new candidates to challenge her. In a statement released Thursday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said she has performed an "exceptional job" and the U.S. supports her for a second term at the helm of the fund. Lagarde's first five-year term will expire on July 5.

Major world powers have agreed to a cessation of hostilities in Syria set to begin in a week and to provide humanitarian assistance to besieged areas, but failed to secure a complete ceasefire or an end to Russian bombing. The U.S., Russia and more than a dozen other nations also reaffirmed their commitment to a political transition when conditions on the ground improved, following a marathon meeting in Munich aimed at resurrecting peace talks.


Doubts are still swirling over many of Europe's large banks, which have major trading operations and took longer than their U.S. peers to bolster their balance sheets after the financial crisis. On Thursday, Standard and Poor's cut Deutsche Bank's (NYSE:DB) Tier 1 securities to B+ from BB- and lowered its perpetual Tier 2 instruments to BB- from BB. Shares of Germany's largest lender have also fallen about 40% since the start of this year as shareholders expressed concerns over upcoming earnings, its turnaround plan, and possibility bonds won't be repaid in full.

JPMorgan climbed 2.8% in after-hours trading yesterday following a report that CEO Jamie Dimon purchased 500K company shares. The move could deliver a jolt of investor confidence as a monthlong slide in bank stocks threatens to become an avalanche. Dimon paid about $26.5M for the JPM shares, at prices ranging from $53.14 to $53.30 each.

European earnings roundup: Commerzbank (OTCPK:CRZBY) returned to profit in Q4 and announced its first dividend since 2007 after revealing lower bad loan provisions. A raft of new model sales offset a Russia writedown for Renault (OTCPK:RNLSY) as the French carmaker logged a 50% jump in full year profits. Rolls-Royce (OTCPK:RYCEY) slashed its final dividend for 2015, but continued its restructuring efforts with a 20% cut to the top two layers of senior management.

Dell had hoped to price the first $10B of debt it needs to raise for its $67B purchase of EMC on Wednesday, but with credit markets being what they are at the moment, the JPMorgan-led consortium of bankers needed another ten days to get the deal done, sources told the NYPost. Troubled equity markets are also an issue. Dell had hoped to raise $5B through the sale of its Perot Systems, but supposed front-runner Atos dropped out of the bidding contest after a big decline in its stock price.

Pandora is "working with Morgan Stanley to meet potential buyers," and has held discussions about selling itself, NYT reports, but cautions the talks are preliminary. The announcement boosted the stock 8.5% yesterday, before falling back on Q4 results in extended trading. The news also comes after Pandora's (NYSE:P) shares fell into the single digits thanks to ongoing concerns about competition and user growth/engagement.

Uber has agreed to pay $28.5M to settle litigation brought by customers who alleged the ride hailing service misrepresented the quality of its safety practices and the fees it imposed on passengers. The two class action lawsuits said UBER charged a "Safe Rides Fee" of as much as $2.30 per trip to support its "industry leading background check process," although the company doesn't use fingerprint identification required by taxi regulators.

Boeing plummeted 6.8% yesterday following a report of an SEC investigation on whether the company properly accounted for the costs and expected sales of its 787 Dreamliner and the 747 jumbo aircraft. At one point during the session, Boeing (NYSE:BA) plunged over 12% - translating into the company's biggest one-day price drop since it went public in January 1972. S&P Global Market Intelligence's Jim Corridore still retains his Buy rating on the stock, however, citing a "large backlog of business" and "positive overall aerospace demand."

Shares of Fresh Market accelerated into the close to end the day with a tidy 22% gain after Kroger (NYSE:KR) was reported to be bidding for the chain. The latter ended the day down a mild 1.1%, with some traders uneasy over the potential M&A play. Other firms are also participating in the TFM auction, but if Kroger wins the bidding, it would plug a nice gap the grocery store operator has in the Northeast.

Hot news from Google/Alphabet: The company is developing a VR headset that doesn't need to be paired with a PC, phone, or console, WSJ reports. Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) is also on a hiring spree for its self-driving project, advertising dozens of jobs on its website with a special focus on manufacturing expertise. Separately, Google is expanding how it applies Europe's right-to-be-forgotten rule for search engines, bending to demands from privacy regulators.

According to a new 13G filing, Visa (NYSE:V) is one of the top five shareholders in payments firm Square (NYSE:SQ). The world's largest payment network operator holds a 9.99% stake, which it began building back in 2011.

Under pressure from government officials, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is more aggressively policing material it views as supporting terrorism. The world's largest social network is now quicker to remove users who back terror groups, investigate posts by their friends, and has a team that focuses on terrorist content. The unit is also helping promote counter speech, or posts that aim to discredit militant groups. Facebook is not the only one figuring out how to curb extremist propaganda. Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) last week suspended 125K accounts associated with ISIS.

Thursday's Key Earnings

Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ:ATVI) -14% AH on lackluster holiday results.
AIG (NYSE:AIG) +1.8% AH on deal with Icahn, buyback, dividend boost.
Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) +2.8% after beating estimates.
CBS (NYSE:CBS) -1.5% AH hurt by a writedown on radio licenses.
FireEye (NASDAQ:FEYE) see-sawed AH following mixed forecasts.
Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) +18.3% AH on beat, buyback, guidance hike.
Nokia (NYSE:NOK) +1% after topping expectations.
Pandora (P) -6% AH following a cautious 2016 outlook.
Peabody Energy (BTU) -30.1% on a big Q4 miss, more pain ahead.
PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) -0.7% following in-line earnings.
TransCanada (NYSE:TRP) flat after writedown, dividend increase, upcoming layoffs.
Teva Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ:TEVA) -5% as results failed to impress.

Today's Markets

In Asia, Japan -4.8% to 14953. Hong Kong -1.2% to 18320. China closed. India +0.2% to 22986.
In Europe, at midday, London +1.8%. Paris +1.5%. Frankfurt +1.7%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow +0.8%. S&P +1%. Nasdaq +1%. Crude +4.9% to $27.50. Gold -0.5% to $1242.
Ten-year Treasury Yield +4 bps to 1.69%

Today's Economic Calendar

8:30 Retail Sales
8:30 Import/Export Prices
10:00 Business Inventories
10:00 Reuters/UofM Consumer Sentiment
1:00 PM Baker-Hughes Rig Count

Companies reporting earnings today