Wall Street Breakfast: World Equities Take A Breather

by: Wall Street Breakfast
Wall Street Breakfast
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Stocks across the globe took a break from a recent rally today after oil prices slipped and Wall Street snapped a three-session winning streak. Crude gained sharply earlier this week as major oil producers proposed a joint production freeze, but investors remain cautious whether the cap will actually materialize and worry about building U.S. crude inventories. Despite the pause for breath, world equities are on track to finish the week higher as traders question whether this year's steep losses in the global markets have been overdone.


Excessive loosening of monetary policies in China would create asset bubbles and increase downward pressure on the yuan, warned Yi Gang, vice governor of the People's Bank of China. The policy has instead led the central bank to rely on alternative measures to put cash into the markets. On that note, the PBOC injected 10B yuan ($1.53B) of short-term loans into the financial system overnight, following its announcement on Thursday that it would conduct open-market operations on a daily basis.

Japan has exhausted all options to stimulate growth and needs structural reforms, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The comments from Randall Jones, the head of Japan and Korea at OECD, come after the Bank of Japan's move on January 29 to adopt a negative interest rate policy for the first time ever to stimulate the economy.

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron battled much of the night to renegotiate his country's terms within the European Union, determined to limit concessions to help Britain stay in the bloc. Fellow leaders and diplomats said an agreement still seemed feasible by the end of a two-day summit, but some said the outstanding issues, such as welfare curbs and financial regulation, were proving tough to crack.

The U.S. said it won't break off ties to a Kurdish militia that's fighting Islamic State in Syria, dismissing a demand by NATO member Turkey, which blames the group for a bombing in the capital Ankara this week. The U.S. agrees with Turkey that the PKK, which has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s Kurdish regions for three decades, is a terrorist group, but said defeating Islamic State is the overwhelming priority.


Apple has been given more time to respond to a government order to assist the FBI in unlocking an iPhone used by the perpetrators of last year's terror attacks in San Bernardino. Its response in court will now be due February 26 instead of Tuesday. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will likely seek to invoke the United States' protections of free speech as one of its key legal arguments, lawyers with expertise in the subject said this week.

Yahoo top executive Simon Khalaf said the company missed revenue targets last year because it was too focused on adding users instead of selling ads. Khalaf's admission is unlikely to deflect much blame from his boss, Marissa Mayer, who is still under pressure to sell Yahoo's (YHOO) core business after failing to boost revenue in the 3.5 years since she became chief executive. The firm said earlier this month it would explore "strategic alternatives" and undergo a restructuring that will eliminate roughly 15% of its workforce.

In a party-line vote, the FCC has voted to proceed on new regulations that will allow for open competition in pay TV set-top boxes. Agency Chairman Tom Wheeler had railed against a market where he says Americans spend $20B on leasing devices from their TV providers, paying rental fees that have jumped 185% since 1994 despite the fact that other consumer electronics have declined 90% in price over the same time frame.

Dish Network's Sling TV streaming service has more than 600K subscribers, according to people briefed on the numbers, shedding some light on consumer appetite for cheaper packages of live channels. Dish (NASDAQ:DISH) hasn't been publicly breaking out the subscribers for Sling TV since it launched a year ago, aside from an initial disclosure that it had 169K customers as of March 31, 2015.

Of the almost 175 companies that made their U.S. stock-market debuts in 2015, more than 70% are now trading below their IPO prices (on average their shares are down about 20%). A downturn in investor sentiment, which began gradually last summer then suddenly became severe earlier this year, has been felt hardest by the market's newest companies, creating a hostile environment for new IPOs. There were no U.S. initial public offerings in January, and there have been only four new listings this month.

McDonald's CEO Stephen Easterbrook's base pay will increase 18% starting in March, after the company posted its best U.S. quarterly sales in nearly four years during Q4. According to a regulatory filing, McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) compensation committee approved increasing Easterbrook's salary to $1.3M starting in March. His annual target incentive was set at 175% of his salary, or nearly $3M, but only if the company's operating earnings improve over 2016.

More pay package numbers: Citigroup (NYSE:C) raised Chief Executive Michael Corbat's compensation by an estimated 27% in 2015, as the big bank crossed several hurdles on its way toward becoming a more profitable institution. Corbat earned an estimated $16.5M in 2015, including deferred shares worth about $4.5M, up from $13M in 2014. Citigroup is also planning to exit its retail operations in Brazil and Argentina, as it continues to pull out from markets where it does not have enough branches to be competitive.

The FBI raided United Development Funding offices outside of Dallas on Thursday without elaborating on the nature of its move, sending the company's shares plunging more than 50%. Earlier this month, Texas hedge fund manager J. Kyle Bass launched a website that accused the company of operating a "Ponzi-like real estate scheme." United Development Funding (NASDAQ:UDF) calls itself a mortgage REIT that lends money to develop properties and charges interest on the loans.

According to EU regulators, Teva Pharmaceutical (NYSE:TEVA) has offered concessions to allay antitrust concerns over its $40.5B bid for Allergan's (NYSE:AGN) generics unit. "Commitments have been submitted and the new legal deadline is set on 10 March," European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said in an email. Acquiring the Actavis generic business would strengthen Teva's position as the world's largest generics drugmaker.

General Electric has struck a deal to install new lights at 5,000 JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) U.S. bank branches. Current, the new GE unit that sells LED lighting systems, estimates that, once installed, the new lights could reduce the banking giant's lighting-related energy use in its branches by 50%. The deal is also considered a shot in the arm for Current, which represents a new front in GE's effort to revive its industrial offerings and shake up the company's public image.

More troubles for Takata? Mazda (OTCPK:MZDAY) is calling back around 1.9M vehicles in Japan and abroad over airbags manufactured by the embattled Japanese air bag supplier. The latest announcement is part of a widening recall that has seen roughly 500M cars affected by Takata's (TKTDY) faulty inflators, which have been linked to at least 10 deaths and around 100 injuries.

Newly discovered memos and emails suggest that Volkswagen (OTCPK:VLKAY) executives pursued a strategy of delay and obfuscation with U.S. regulators after being confronted in early 2014 with evidence that its diesel vehicles were emitting far more pollutants than allowed. The documents could raise the penalties for VW based on laws requiring public disclosure of problems that could potentially affect a company's stock price. Separately, South Korean prosecutors raided the local office of Volkswagen and sister firm Audi (OTCPK:AUDVF) today as part of the widening probe into its emissions scandal.

Daimler's also under emissions pressure...An owner of a Mercedes BlueTEC diesel car filed a class-action lawsuit on Thursday, accusing the carmaker of knowingly programming its Clean Diesel vehicles to emit illegally high levels of NOx at levels 65x higher than those permitted by the EPA (when operating in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit). Daimler (OTCPK:DDAIF) said the carmaker would examine the levels and defend itself against the suit.

Thursday's Key Earnings

Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) +4% after a Q4 beat, strong guidance.
DISH Network (DISH) -6.3% as subscribers slipped.
Duke Energy (NYSE:DUK) +0.9% despite an EPS, revenue miss.
MGM Resorts (NYSE:MGM) -8.3% weighed down by Macau revenue.
Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) -8.3% as promotions wrecked margins.
SodaStream (NASDAQ:SODA) +8.5% after topping estimates.
Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) -3.1% on soft e-commerce, comp-store sales.

Today's Markets

In Asia, Japan -1.4% to 15967. Hong Kong -0.4% to 19285. China -0.1% to 2860. India +0.3% to 23709.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.2%. Paris -0.4%. Frankfurt -0.6%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow -0.1%. S&P -0.1%. Nasdaq -0.1%. Crude -2% to $30.17. Gold flat at $1225.80.
Ten-year Treasury Yield -2 bps to 1.73%

Today's Economic Calendar

8:00 Fed's Mester: Economic Outlook
8:30 Consumer Price Index
1:00 PM Baker-Hughes Rig Count

Companies reporting earnings today