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Daily from Wall Street, March 21

 

  • Stocks Climb, With S&P 500 on Track for First Rise in Nearly a Week
  • Political developments and better sentiment on global economy push stocks in Europe and Asia to highest levels since 2015

 

U.S. stocks rose Tuesday, putting the S&P 500 on track to snap a three-session losing streak.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 46 points, or 0.2%, to 20952 shortly after the opening bell. The S&P 500 rose 0.3%, led by gains in shares of tech and health-care companies, and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.4%.

Oil prices bounced back, helping lift energy stocks. U.S. crude oil gained 0.4% to $49.09 a barrel after notching its second lowest settlement of the year Monday. Shares of energy companies in the S&P 500 rose 0.4%.

The euro rose 0.6% against the U.S. dollar to $1.0809, around its highest since early February. The Stoxx Europe 600 index added 0.4%. French elections candidate´s last night  gave a more optimistic clues on what could be expected as pro european candidates won over anti euro. “Our base case is that Le Pen won’t win in the second round…but we’ve seen in the last several votes polls can be wrong and things can shift quickly.” said a poll´s expert to the WSJ.

Today’s Markets

In Asia, Japan -0.3%. Hong Kong +0.4%. China +0.4%. India -0.1%.
In Europe,

  • FTSE 100: -0.1% at 7,422
  • Germany’s DAX: +0.2% at 12,076
  • France’s CAC: +0.6% at 5,040
  • Italy’s FTSE MIB: +1.3% at 20,236
  • Spain’s IBEX: +0.9% at 10,310
  • Europe’s STOXX 600: +0.2% at 379

US Dow +0.1%. S&P +0.2%. Nasdaq +0.4%. Crude +0.8% to $49.32. Gold -0.1% to $1232.40.
Ten-year Treasury Yield +2 bps to 2.49%

Economy/Politics

Oil prices are up on a rumor that an OPEC-led production cut could be extended beyond June, although the move would require non-OPEC members like Russia to increase their efforts. So far the supply cap agreed to last November has done little to prop up prices, as other producers, including the United States, have stepped up to fill the gap. Crude futures +0.8% to $49.32/bbl.

Citing Wells Fargo’s accounts scandal, New York Fed President William Dudley is calling for better incentives to drive performance on Wall Street, while stating banks have “a long way to go” in reforming internal culture. More Fedspeak today: Eric Rosengren will speak in Indonesia, Esther George will discuss the economy at noon and Loretta Mester speaks at 6 p.m. ET on the outlook and communications.

British inflation last month shot past the Bank of England’s 2% target for the first time since the end of 2013, leaping by 2.3% in annual terms, and looks set to climb further due to the Brexit hit to the pound and rising oil prices. The move came after Theresa May’s office announced on Monday that she’ll trigger two years of Brexit discussions on March 29.

They discussed Greece’s bailout, but Monday’s meeting of the Eurogroup did not debate the future of their president. While Jeroen Dijsselbloem has been one of the public faces of austerity in Europe, his Dutch Labor Party recorded a poor showing at last week’s election in the Netherlands. That means he will probably lose his post as finance minister and be replaced in the Eurogroup early next year.

The Trump administration is considering imposing sanctions aimed at cutting North Korea off from the global financial system as a response to its nuclear threats and missile tests. The penalties would be part of a multi-pronged approach of increased economic and diplomatic pressure, especially on Chinese banks and firms that do the most business with Pyongyang.

In testimony to Congress yesterday, FBI Director James Comey confirmed the bureau was investigating allegations of Russian interference in November’s presidential election. The battle over healthcare also raged on in Washington as Republican leaders made changes to the proposed bill designed to win over House conservatives, who insist there are still not enough votes to pass the measure.

Stocks

Augmented reality is coming to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), and it’s the iPhone that will make it happen. According to Bloomberg, the first fruits could be “Matrix-style” 3D photographs that users can move around – and eventually view through AR smartglasses. Loop Ventures’ Gene Munster said the iPhone 8 will lead to a “paradigm shift,” setting the foundation for the next era of technological computation.

The live-action Beauty was even more beastly than in early reports, earning $175M at the weekend box office in North America ($5M more than previous estimates). Internationally, Beauty and the Beast added another $182.3M, meaning its worldwide take sits at $357M, pacing the Disney (NYSE:DIS) film for more than $1B when its theatrical run eventually comes to an end.

Marking a further push into entertainment, Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) has fully acquired online ticketing platform Damai.cn for an undisclosed amount. “This continues an earnest three-year romance,” the firm said on its Sina Weibo platform. Damai claims to have hundreds of millions registered users, and has sold tickets for over 1.8M events in 330 cities worldwide.

SoftBank has invested $300M in shared-office space company WeWork (Private:VWORK), the first installment of a multibillion-dollar bet. Yesterday, SoftBank (OTCPK:SFTBY) scrapped a planned $100M investment in smartphone startup Essential Products – founded by the creator of the Android OS – partly because of Masayoshi Son’s increasingly close relationship with Apple (AAPL).

After snapping up a series of small online retailers, Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) is launching an innovation hub to identify the ideas, people and technologies that will drive the future of retail. Called Store No 8, the Silicon Valley-based investment team will work with startups that specialize in areas like robotics, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Target’s first fully redesigned shop in Houston will include two separate entrances: one for time-crunched grocery shoppers, and another for those who want to browse fashion or beauty. The company will use the design, which also includes order pickup parking spots, as a starting point for the 500 stores it plans to make over in 2018 and 2019. It’s part of the $7B investment Target (NYSE:TGT) disclosed last month.

Legal analyst Andrew Napolitano is being kept off Fox News (NASDAQ:FOX) indefinitely amid the controversy over his unverified claims that British intelligence wiretapped Trump Tower at the behest of President Obama. Britain dismissed the report as “nonsense” after White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer quoted it in a briefing, while James Comey said the FBI had no evidence to support the claim.

Britain’s high street banks processed nearly $740M from a vast money-laundering operation run by Russian criminals with links to the Kremlin and the FSB, according to The Guardian. HSBC, RBS, Lloyds (NYSE:LYG) and Barclays (NYSE:BCS) are among 17 banks based in the U.K. that are facing questions over what they knew about the international scheme and why they didn’t turn away suspicious money transfers.

A glitch late Monday snarled closing trading in dozens of exchange-traded funds at New York Stock Exchange’s (NYSE:ICE) Arca platform, in one of the largest trading snafus of 2017. ETFs with market values exceeding $150B were affected, including SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEARCA:GLD), the largest gold ETF, according to sources. Few specifics were offered on the nature of the problems.

General Electric plans to invest about $500M over the next three years digitalizing operations in its health technology unit, CEO John Flannery told Handelsblatt in an interview. GE Healthcare (NYSE:GE) plans to hire additional software and data specialists, and the division could purchase a data analysis firm to strengthen its internal platforms more quickly.

Striking workers at BHP Billiton’s (NYSE:BHP) Escondida mine in Chile will accept an invitation to restart negotiations, but the meeting will only concern the union’s three core demands involving benefits, work shifts and new workers. According to Reuters, members have also given union leaders authority to walk away from negotiations and force a temporary 18-month contract.

Westinghouse is taking offers for a financing package, likely greater than $500M, to help it go through U.S. bankruptcy, sources told Reuters. Should it file for bankruptcy, the Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSYY) unit could continue to pay employees and build nuclear power plants in Georgia and South Carolina, largely commissioned by utilities Southern Co. (NYSE:SO) and Scana (NYSE:SCG).

Hopes that Hyundai Motor may restructure led shares to jump 9% overnight in South Korea to their highest level in 22 months. Market speculation is that activist hedge fund Elliott Management bought a share in the country’s top automaker to push for changes. Hyundai (OTC:HYMTF) affiliates Kia Motors (OTC:KIMTF) and Hyundai Mobis climbed more than 4% on the news.

Looking to make their sales and marketing software products stronger competitors to Salesforce (NYSE:CRM) and Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) offerings, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) are joining forces. The two will create a shared data format between Adobe’s marketing software suite, which the company is re-naming its Experience Cloud, and Microsoft’s sales software, called Dynamics, allowing the systems to work together seamlessly.

Due to increased terror threats, the Department of Homeland Security is barring U.S.-bound passengers from bringing large electronic devices on flights originating in 13 Middle Eastern countries. That means anything bigger than a smartphone will need to be checked, including laptops, tablets, cameras and DVD players. American carriers (AAL, UAL, DAL) and domestic flights do not appear to be impacted by the ban.

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