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Daily from Wall Street, March 17

 

 

  • G20 gathering in Germany:

Of finance ministers and central bank governors. Investors have been anxiously looking for clarity about what the Trump administration’s “America First” policies will mean for the world economy, and the event could provide signals about currency policy, deregulation and trade.

Meanwhile Chancellor Angela Merkel has landed in Washington with a high-ranking business delegation. The goal is to take President Donald Trump’s pulse. Is he just impulsive, or crazy? Is he still a partner, or a rival? Can one only have conflict with him, or make constructive policy too? says Handelsblatt Editor in Chief Sven Afhüppe.

 

Today’s Markets

In Asia, Japan -0.4%. Hong Kong +0.1%. China -1%. India +0.2%.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.2%. Paris +0.4%. Frankfurt +0.2%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow flat. S&P flat. Nasdaq flat. Crude +0.4% to $49.42. Gold +0.1% to $1228.40.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 2.52%

Thursday’s Key Earnings

Adobe ADBE +4.4% AH after FQ1 beat, raising guidance.

Economy/Politics

Economists See Growth Climbing in 2017, 2018, Then Dissipating
Most forecasters in The Wall Street Journal’s monthly survey of economists believe the recent boost in stocks and bond yields will be temporary, and not a permanent reset of the U.S. economy’s ability to grow.

 

America First:  Trump’s Budget Cuts Some Agencies to Their Lowest Levels in Decades: President Trump’s 2018 budget blueprint released on Thursday proposes cuts in discretionary spending for most government agencies to pay for large increases in military spending.

 

Photo published for Trump’s Budget Cuts Some Agencies to Their Lowest Levels in Decades

The E.P.A. would face one of the steepest reductions. The agency’s proposed budget would be the smallest since it was formed in 1970. The NYT

Scotland could abandon a currency union with the rest of the UK if it gained independence, former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond told the FT. He ruled out joining the euro, but suggested that Scotland could introduce a new currency, either freely floated or pegged to the pound. Another option is to use sterling without any say in monetary policy while the new currency is introduced.

Venezuelan bakeries are the latest industry to find themselves in the cross-hairs of President Maduro’s socialist government, which has been reeling from an economic crisis over the last three years. Looking to combat basic shortages and price manipulation, inspectors were sent into more than 700 stores around the capital this week to enforce a rule that 90% of wheat must be destined for loaves rather than more expensive pastries.

In his search for a “new approach” on North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said “all options are on the table.” “Certainly we do not want for things to get to a military conflict,” he announced in Seoul, but “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action… then that would be met with an appropriate response.”

Stocks

Cold weather luxury apparel retailer Canada Goose’s (NYSE:GOOS) stock rocketed 25% in its first day of trading on Thursday. It’s second only to the much-hyped 2017 IPO of Snap (NYSE:SNAP), which gained 44% in its debut performance. However, a stock’s first day changing hands doesn’t necessarily predict direction – Snap shares fell 4% to below $20 for the first time yesterday amid a slew of “sell” ratings on Wall Street.

European consumer protection authorities have given Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Google (GOOG, GOOGL) a one-month ultimatum to amend their terms of service or face fines, Reuters reports. Letters were sent to the firms in December telling them they broke EU consumer protection laws and needed to do more to tackle fraud and scams on their websites., Reuters reports.

21st Century Fox, the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch, is weighing options to help thwart a potential takeover of Tribune Media (NYSE:TRCO) by Sinclair Broadcast Group (NASDAQ:SBGI). According to Bloomberg, Fox (FOX, FOXA) is deliberating over possible choices after having been approached by several parties which are interested in acquiring Tribune directly or as part of a consortium.

The Japanese government is not considering steps to support Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSYY), according to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. However, several government-backed entities are eyeing its memory chips business, which is attracting more potential bidders ahead of an end-March deadline. The sale is aimed at offsetting a multibillion-dollar writedown at the embattled conglomerate’s U.S. nuclear unit.

Amid continued challenges in the world’s second-largest economy, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has announced plans to set up two new R&D centers in China. The hubs will be located in Shanghai and Suzhou, following previous plans to open two centers in Beijing and Shenzhen. According to a press release, Apple has committed to invest more than 3.5B yuan ($507.1M) in Chinese research.

The head of Nokia’s Mobile Networks division, Samih Elhage, is leaving the company as part of a structural and management shakeup. Nokia (NYSE:NOK) will also split its mobile networks group in two, one focused on products and solutions and the other on services. It follows slowing demand from telecom carriers, many of which have finished rolling out the latest 4G networks.

Alibaba is again branching out in the digital arena – this time getting into mobile game distribution. BABA will invest 1B yuan in an alliance with a handful of other mobile gaming firms to distribute offerings between China and other parts of the world. According to PwC, China is the world’s largest online gaming market, with the overall video game industry estimated to hit about $12B by 2020.

Domino’s Pizza is seeing its big bet on digital pay off, with 60% of its sales now coming through digital channels. Almost two-thirds of that revenue arrives through mobile devices, CEO Patrick Doyle told CNBC, saying the next big thing will be voice assistance. Domino’s (NYSE:DPZ) recently announced customers can place orders through Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Alexa, as well as through Google Home (GOOG, GOOGL).

How secure is Twitter? McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) corporate account was compromised yesterday after a tweet was posted “@realDonaldTrump You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President…” It follows a major attack on Wednesday, which plastered Nazi slogans over hundreds of celebrity and media accounts. While Twitter (TWTR) may have security flaws, hacks can also result from weak passwords or the same ones for multiple websites.

British American Tobacco said demand for its “glo” device overwhelmed supply in its Japan test marketing as global cigarette giants shift focus to the “heat but not burn” category amid declining smoking population. Philip Morris (NYSE:PM) announced earlier this month that it had more than doubled the supply of its IQOS tobacco device but it was still not enough to cover demand. BTI +1.1% premarket.

The supervisory board at Deutsche Bank is set for some major changes. Starting in May, Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) IT security chief, Gerhard Eschelbeck, will join the non-executive board, as well as Alexander Schuetz, CEO of C-Quadrat. However it’s not all change at the top, Paul Achleitner has been nominated to serve another 5-year term as Deutsche (NYSE:DB) chairman.

Two weeks after U.S. officials searched Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) facilities, the company said it has hired former U.S. Attorney General William Barr as outside counsel to help address the ongoing government investigation of its import and export practices. The IRS has demanded Caterpillar pay $2B in taxes and penalties for profits assigned to its Swiss parts unit, although criminal charges haven’t been levied against the company.

A federal court in Minas Gerais has suspended a case brought by prosecutors seeking 155B reais ($49.7B) in damages for the 2015 Samarco mine disaster, which killed 19 people and caused Brazil’s worst ever environmental disaster. The move will facilitate negotiation of a final deal on damages resulting from the collapse of a tailings dam at the mine – a joint venture between VALE and BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP).

North Dakota officials appear poised to go after the U.S. government to recoup more than $38M in state expenses related to months of protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, despite an offer from developer Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE:ETP). Some groups question why the state isn’t jumping at ETP’s offer to pay, but others say accepting money from a private sector business in an industry it regulates would result in an ethical dilemma.

Mexican cement giant Cemex rose 2.6% yesterday despite deciding against bidding as a supplier to President Trump’s proposed border wall, giving up profits in the face of a potential backlash in its home country. Cemex (NYSE:CX) had been seen as potentially one of the biggest beneficiaries of the wall, but it could still benefit from a boost in general demand for cement.

A new SpaceX rival? Looking to bring down costs and make its space program more commercially competitive, China is developing a system to recover rocket parts so they can be reused in future launches. Meanwhile, SpaceX (Private:SPACE) has launched the EchoStar XXIII into orbit, marking the 29th (out of 31) successful Falcon 9 mission since the introduction of the rocket in 2010.

French prosecutors have opened a preliminary corruption investigation into Airbus (OTCPK:EADSY). The probe will center on allegations of fraudulent practices related to selling planes and arranging aircraft financing, and the use of third-party agents to win jetliner contracts. The UK’s Serious Fraud Office is already investigating Airbus for possible corruption and bribery.

A federal judge has approved a $27M settlement for more than 200,000 LYFT drivers, an agreement that increases their protection against dismissals but fails to resolve their employment status. The drivers sued Lyft for classifying them as independent contractors, requiring them to pay for gas and other work expenses, while leaving them unprotected by labor laws like unemployment insurance and collective bargaining.

While leprechauns guard pots of gold, investors will be reflecting on their portfolios for St. Patrick’s Day. Irish ETFs, including EIRL and IRL, are up almost 8% YTD. Other Irish stocks also wearing green: Fly Leasing (NYSE:FLY), CRH, Kingspan (OTC:KGSPY), Paddy Power Betfair (OTCPK:PDYPY) and Irish Continental (OTCPK:IRCUF).

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