Unilever Gives a Preview of Worsening Inflation Pinch | Sidnaz Blog

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Inflation is becoming as much a headache for CEOs of household-staples companies like

Unilever


UL -0.19%

as for shoppers. Their ability to pass on price increases hinges on where and what they sell.

The U.K.-based maker of Hellman’s mayonnaise and Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream said Thursday that sales increased at a healthy 5% clip in the three months through June, compared with the same period of 2020. Some products that saw demand slump during lockdowns, such as deodorant, have returned to growth now that social restrictions are being lifted in certain countries.

However, Unilever’s shares fell 5% in early London trading because of new profit guidance. Operating margins are expected to be flat in 2021, down from the slight increase that Chief Executive Officer

Alan Jope

was targeting just three months ago.

Inflation is the clear culprit. For Unilever and its main European peer Nestlé, costs of goods sold amount to around half of revenue. Bernstein recently estimated that over the next 12 months these two companies face roughly 14% increases in bills for everything from plastic packaging to food commodities. On a call with analysts, Unilever’s finance director said that costs spiked again in the latest quarter. Soybean oil prices, an important ingredient for the company’s salad dressing, jumped 20% compared with the first quarter.

Predicting who has the best ability to pass on these higher prices to consumers isn’t easy, but investors can look for clues in market-share data, as well as companies’ mix of products and countries.

Unilever, the maker of Dove soap, said costs spiked again in the latest quarter.



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Jason Alden/BLOOMBERG NEWS

Even though consumers have less disposable income on average, it is easier to increase prices in emerging markets than in mature economies. This is because supermarkets in developing countries often have less bargaining power than in Europe and the U.S., where grocers are more consolidated. Unilever’s high exposure to emerging markets, which contribute roughly 60% of group sales, is positive. However, it can only push so far before pinched shoppers trade down to cheaper brands. This is already happening in Indonesia.

The company and its main rivals will have to fight harder in Europe, where price negotiations between consumer-staples companies and supermarkets are notoriously fraught. In certain markets like France, the prices of some goods are in deflation.

This week’s controversy over Ben & Jerry’s decision to stop selling ice cream in Israeli settlements may not help the task. The move taken by the brand’s independent board could cause problems for Unilever in the U.S., where it has spent years trying to improve its competitive position. Any slip in consumer demand will make it harder to increase prices.

Lastly, the split of luxury and mass-market brands in consumer companies’ portfolios will determine how much they can shield margins. It is easier to raise prices for premium products, such as Unilever’s posh cleaning brand The Laundress, than for mundane brands where shopper loyalty is weaker.

Consumer bosses face a delicate balancing act to get through this year with both their margins and market share still intact.

The U.S. inflation rate reached a 13-year high recently, triggering a debate about whether the country is entering an inflationary period similar to the 1970s. WSJ’s Jon Hilsenrath looks at what consumers can expect next.

Write to Carol Ryan at [email protected]

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Netflix May Find No Business Like Show Business | Sidnaz Blog

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Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in a scene from ’The Queen’s Gambit.’



Photo:

/Associated Press

It is as good a time as any for

Netflix

to test a new story line. Even a lucky turn in videogames won’t free the streaming giant from the need to keep playing Hollywood’s game, though.

Netflix used its second-quarter report Tuesday afternoon to confirm previously reported plans to enter the videogame business. No timing was given, though the company said the offerings would be included in its current subscription plans at no additional cost. The company isn’t backing away from its work on movies and TV shows, but said in its letter to shareholders “since we are nearly a decade into our push into original programming, we think the time is right to learn more about how our members value games.”

That news comes as Netflix remains mired in somewhat of a post-pandemic slump. It added 1.5 million net new paying subscribers in the second quarter, which was a bit better than it had forecast but still its lowest level of growth in nearly a decade. It also projected 3.5 million net adds for the third quarter—about 29% less than what Wall Street was hoping for. That would bring the total number of new subscribers to about nine million for the first nine months of 2021. Netflix added more than 28 million paying subscribers in the same period last year.

A foray into games might make sense for a company with an intimate knowledge of the viewing habits of a user base that now numbers over 209 million. It is also a tough business to crack—even the mobile gaming market that Netflix says it expects to target initially. There are many participants, but most of the money is still made by long-established properties. Games like “Candy Crush” and “Clash of Clans” remain in the top-five grossing charts even after nearly a decade on the market.

Netflix will need to keep battling it out for video streaming eyeballs. The company expects its pace of new releases to pick up in the second half of this year; analysts from Wedbush count 42 original shows and movies expected for the third quarter alone. But the company still has its own track record to compete with: Last fall included popular shows such as “The Queen’s Gambit,” “The Crown” and “Bridgerton.” Netflix shares are down nearly 2% this year, lagging behind many internet and entertainment peers. Streaming investors hyper-focused on subscriber growth aren’t playing games.

Write to Dan Gallagher at [email protected]

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the July 21, 2021, print edition.

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Nvidia Stock’s Surge Makes Chip Maker 10th-Biggest U.S. Listed | Sidnaz Blog

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Nvidia chips’ parallel-computing capabilities make them better than rivals’ for artificial-intelligence performance and mining cryptocurrencies.



Photo:

nvidia corp/Reuters

The post-pandemic boom in the semiconductor business has powered

Nvidia Corp.


NVDA -4.25%

into the top 10 U.S. public companies, joining the likes of Apple Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Shares of the Santa Clara, Calif., firm have risen nearly 80% over the past year, giving it a market value of around $453 billion. That is more than rivals

Intel Corp.

and

Broadcom Inc.

combined.

Nvidia makes processors that power gaming and cryptocurrency mining. Chip shares have risen in part thanks to a pandemic-induced global shortage of semiconductors that has driven up the prices of everything from laptops to automobiles.

One reason for Nvidia’s outperformance, analysts say, is that its chips’ parallel-computing capabilities make them better than rivals’ for artificial-intelligence performance and mining cryptocurrencies. Nvidia’s graphics processors are used for mining ethereum and the cryptocurrency’s value has soared this year, even after a recent correction.

That surge has exacerbated the shortage of gaming chips. Nvidia plans to sell cards aimed at the crypto market and has employed technical adjustments to make gaming processors less useful to miners. Analysts also expect Nvidia to get a boost from tech and autonomous-vehicle companies using its chips to navigate traffic or track online behavior.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

How do you think Nvidia will perform in the next year? Join the conversation below.

“The company is the biggest and best supplier of parallel computing,” said

Ambrish Srivastava,

analyst at BMO Capital Markets. “It’s hard to compete against that.”

While Nvidia has a leg up in the data-center industry, competitors are catching up, analysts said. The recent slide in crypto also could spur miners to dump their chips on the secondary market, as happened when a previous ethereum skid hit revenue in 2018.

A global chip shortage is affecting how quickly we can drive a car off the lot or buy a new laptop. WSJ visits a fabrication plant in Singapore to see the complex process of chip making and how one manufacturer is trying to overcome the shortage. Photo: Edwin Cheng for The Wall Street Journal

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Zoom Video, Five9, Exxon, IBM: What to Watch When the Stock | Sidnaz Blog

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Global stocks are broadly lower, along with government-bond yields and commodity prices, amid renewed anxiety around the Delta variant of Covid-19 and inflation. Here’s what we’re watching ahead of Monday’s open. Full market wrap here.

A sign for Zoom Video Communications ahead of the company’s Nasdaq IPO in New York, April 18, 2019.



Photo:

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Chart of the Day

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Moderna Jumps on Joining the S&P 500: What to Watch When the | Sidnaz Blog

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Stock futures are inching higher ahead of retail sales figures and a measure of consumer sentiment, that together will offer fresh clues on the vigor of American shoppers. Here’s what we’re watching ahead of Friday’s opening bell.

Medical professionals prepared syringes with doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination event in Washington, D.C., April 3, 2021.



Photo:

michael reynolds/Shutterstock

  • Intel


    INTC -1.26%

    is exploring a deal to buy GlobalFoundries, according to people familiar with the matter, in a move that would rate as its largest acquisition ever. The semiconductor giant’s shares ticked up 0.9% premarket.

  • Chinese regulators slammed the brakes on

    Didi Global


    DIDI -2.06%

    ‘s shares, having on Friday entered the ride-hailing giant’s offices to conduct a cybersecurity investigation. U.S.-traded Didi shares were down 4.3% ahead of the bell.

  • American Outdoor Brands


    AOUT 5.99%

    reported a net profit for the recent quarter after a loss a year earlier, but investors seem less than impressed. Shares of the outdoor sporting and camping goods retailer dropped more than 9.6% off hours.

  • Alcoa


    AA -1.71%

    shares added 1.9% premarket after the aluminum producer topped second-quarter sales and income expectations as it benefited from strong demand and rising prices.

  • Kansas City Southern


    KSU 0.77%

    said revenue during the recent quarter got a boost from a strengthening Mexican peso. The railroad operator’s shares were up 1% premarket

  • Charles Schwab


    SCHW 0.50%

    is among the companies reporting earnings Friday.

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Blackstone, AIG, NortonLifeLock, Morgan Stanley: What to Watch | Sidnaz Blog

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Futures are mixed ahead of jobless figures and a second day of testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman

Jerome Powell

on Capitol Hill. S&P 500 contracts are down slightly. Nasdaq-100 futures are up, suggesting tech stocks will outperform.

Here’s what we’re watching ahead of Thursday’s trading action.

Prague-based Avast primarily makes free and premium security software, offering desktop and mobile-device protection.



Photo:

david w cerny/Reuters

  • Is the steam coming out of meme stocks?

    AMC Entertainment,


    AMC -15.04%

    one favorite of the Reddit trading crowd, lost 3.7% premarket. If matched once trading begins, the stock would extend a decline of 43% over the past month.

    GameStop


    GME -6.91%

    and

    BlackBerry


    BB -3.79%

    shares have both dropped by almost a quarter in that time.

  • Netflix


    NFLX 1.34%

    shares rose 2.6%. The streaming company, which reached a licensing deal over animated films with Universal this week, has been on a tear of late, gaining 11% for the month through Wednesday.

  • T. Rowe Price


    TROW -0.85%

    shares are up 2.6%. Analysts at Citigroup, Deutsche Bank and Morgan Stanley have raised their target prices for the stock in recent days. T. Rowe said this week it managed $1.62 trillion in assets at the end of June.

  • Supply-chain technology provider

    E2Open Parent


    ETWO -0.73%

    fell 1% after reporting a fall in profit and revenue in its fiscal first quarter from a year before.

Chart of the Day

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Virgin Galactic, PepsiCo, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs: What to | Sidnaz Blog

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Here’s what we’re watching ahead of the opening bell on Tuesday.

  • U.S. stock futures wavered, suggesting indexes would hover close to their record levels as investors awaited inflation data and earnings from the nation’s biggest banks.
  • Futures tied to the S&P 500 were relatively flat after the broad index climbed to its 39th record closing levels of the year. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures weakened 0.1%, while Nasdaq-100 futures were up 0.3%.
What’s Coming Up
Market Moves to Watch

JPMorgan Chase kicked off earnings season for big banks on Tuesday.



Photo:

Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg News

  • Conagra Brands


    CAG -0.53%

    declined 3.2% after reporting a fall in sales and cutting its expectations for profit next year, saying that it expects increased inflation to hit its bottom line.

  • PepsiCo


    PEP 0.02%

    shares added some fizz, rising 1.5% premarket after the food-and-beverage giant reported earnings and lifted its full-year guidance.

  • Tesla


    TSLA 4.38%

    edged up 1% in premarket trading, rising for the fourth consecutive day. CEO Elon Musk was in court on Monday to defend the purchase of SolarCity. He also said he doesn’t enjoy leading the automaker.

  • Boeing retreated 2.3%. The planemaker is facing production issues for the 787 Dreamliner, likely further delaying deliveries of the popular wide-body jets.
  • Some U.S.-listed Chinese companies are recouping recent losses, with search engine

    Baidu


    BIDU -0.53%

    adding 2.2%, e-commerce company

    JD.com


    JD -0.53%

    rising 1.5% and video-sharing firm

    Bilibili


    BILI 0.22%

    up 3.2%. Beijing said last week that it is probing tech companies’ data practices, prompting a tumble. But some of those worries may have eased after China’s top market watchdog approved

    Tencent’s


    TCEHY -3.36%

    plan to privatize search-engine affiliate

    Sogou.

  • Swedish telecom

    Ericsson

    ‘s U.S.-listed shares are up 3.5% ahead of the bell. Rating agency Moody’s issued a review of the company’s rating.

  • Meme stock

    AMC Entertainment

    slid 3.8% premarket. It has lost nearly 25% of its value this month so far.

Market Facts
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite all hit record closes on Monday—and in the S&P 500’s case, it was the 39th record close this year, beating the Dow’s 27 records and the Nasdaq’s 24. The broad index is ahead of the others in terms of gains this year too, with a nearly 17% rise.
  • European stocks have also been on the rise, with both the Stoxx Europe 600 and Germany’s DAX index notching record highs on Monday.
  • On this day in 1852, Wells, Fargo opened for business in San Francisco and Sacramento. It was founded by Henry Wells and William G. Fargo to convert gold dust into cash for miners, transport and safeguard letters, gold nuggets and other valuable byproducts of the California Gold Rush.
Chart of the Day
  • Global coffee prices are climbing and threatening to drive up costs at the breakfast table as the world’s biggest coffee producer, Brazil, faces one of its worst droughts in almost a century.
Must Reads Since You Went to Bed

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IFIT to Buy Fitness Platform Sweat for $300 Million Ahead of IPO | Sidnaz Blog

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IFIT, which owns NordicTrack, was recently valued in excess of $7 billion in its most recent round of funding in late 2020.



Photo:

iFit

IFIT Health & Fitness Inc. will acquire Sweat, an online fitness training platform, ahead of an initial public offering that is expected in the fall, according to people familiar with the matter.

IFIT is buying Sweat, which was co-founded by trainer

Kayla Itsines

and CEO

Tobi Pearce

in 2015, for around $300 million, some of the people said. IFIT plans to keep Sweat, which is based in Australia, as a stand-alone brand and Ms. Itsines and Mr. Pearce as executives.

The Sweat app



Photo:

Sweat

IFIT is beefing up its content offerings ahead of its anticipated IPO. The company, which owns NordicTrack, was recently valued in excess of $7 billion in its most recent round of funding in late 2020 and is expected to attain a valuation in excess of that in its IPO.

Should the company debut as planned later this year, it is expected to tap a market hungry for fast-growing companies in the busiest year for public offerings on record. IFIT’s closest competitor,

Peloton Interactive Inc.,

made its debut in late 2019, and while its stock price has tumbled this year after a recall of its treadmills, investors had raced into the stock. Even with the pullback, Peloton shares have more than quadrupled from their IPO price.

IFIT, formerly known as Icon Health & Fitness Inc., has been moving swiftly with its IPO plans and confidentially filed papers recently with the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to people familiar with the offering.

Write to Maureen Farrell at [email protected]

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Coffee Prices Soar After Bad Harvests and Insatiable Demand | Sidnaz Blog

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Global coffee prices are climbing and threatening to drive up costs at the breakfast table as the world’s biggest coffee producer, Brazil, faces one of its worst droughts in almost a century.

Prices for arabica coffee beans—the main variety produced in Brazil—hit their highest level since 2016 last month. New York-traded arabica futures have risen over 18% in the past three months to $1.51 a pound. London-traded robusta—a stronger-tasting variety favored in instant coffee—has risen over 30% in the past three months, to $1,749 a metric ton, a two-year high.

Brazil’s farmers are girding for one of their biggest slumps in output in almost 20 years after months of drought left plants to wither. Brazil’s arabica crop cycles between one stronger year followed by a weaker year. Following a record harvest in 2020, 2021 was set to be a weaker year, but the drop is more severe than expected.

“I’ve been growing coffee more than 50 years, and I’ve never seen as bad a drought as the one last year and this year,” said Christina Valle, a third-generation coffee grower in Minas Gerais, Brazil’s biggest coffee-growing state. “I normally take three months to harvest my coffee; this year it took me a month,” she said.

Brazil’s total coffee harvest this year is expected to drop by the biggest year-over-year amount since 2003, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its arabica crop is forecast to be almost 15 million 132-pound bags smaller than in 2020.

Others are guarding for an even larger slump. Dutch agricultural bank Rabobank expects the harvest to be 17 million bags smaller, while commodities brokerage ED&F Man, whose Volcafe arm is one of the world’s largest coffee traders, expects a decline of more than 23 million bags.

“A drop that severe is unprecedented,” said Kona Haque, head of research at ED&F Man.

The pandemic shook up how consumers drink coffee. Demand for at-home machines and instant brews rose, compensating somewhat for closed coffee shops. The price rally comes just as Western nations are emerging from lockdowns and cafes are welcoming back customers starved of out-of-home coffee culture.

Global coffee consumption is expected to exceed production this year for the first time since 2017, according to the USDA. The department expects 165 million bags of beans to be consumed in 2021. That is 1.8 million bags more than last year. Meanwhile, global coffee production is expected to decline to 164.8 million bags.

There are other factors behind the price rally. Two other major producing nations, Colombia and Vietnam, have had much better harvests than Brazil but are struggling with a different issue: Port delays have left beans sitting idle on the dock.

Exports of Colombian coffee, particularly desired by baristas for its milder flavor, fell as antigovernment protesters blocked highways and ports. A shortage of shipping containers and rocketing freight costs hit Vietnamese farmers, who produce more than a third of the world’s supply of robusta.

“The whole supply chain suffered not only a significant increase in costs but also massive delays,” said Carlos Mera, head of agri-commodities market research at Rabobank. Unlike other commodities, coffee can only be moved around the globe in containers, he said.

Investors are also playing a role, betting that commodities will benefit from rising prices generally. Some investors bid up the price of coffee by putting money in commodity index funds that track broad baskets of commodities from industrial metals to coffee and cocoa, said Mr. Mera.

Coffee prices are heating up, and experts say an even bigger price hike could be coming. WSJ explains the web of economic forces that help determine the cost of coffee. Illustration: Mallory Brangan/WSJ

“There is a lot of money right now that is very keen on holding commodities as real assets, as hedges against inflation,” he said.

Coffee roasters have so far held off from passing higher prices on to consumers, said Ms. Haque. The higher costs of beans coupled with higher freight costs could mean roasters start charging consumers more if they think post-lockdown demand will be strong, she said.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

How much more would you be prepared to pay for your morning coffee? Join the conversation below.

In Brazil, farmers say their stockpiles left over from last year’s bumper crop are dwindling and they are concerned they could run out before next year’s harvest begins.

“We’re a bit worried about having enough to sell next year,” said José Marcos Magalhães, president of the Minasul coffee cooperative. The cooperative is urging members to deliver whatever coffee they have to the cooperative so that it can keep meeting its orders, he said.

Coffee lovers could still find a reprieve. Brazil’s spring rains, which typically fall in September, will be crucial for determining whether damaged coffee plants can recover and produce enough beans during next year’s harvest, said Steve Pollard, a coffee analyst at brokerage Marex.

The alternative could see prices rise even higher, he said. Coffee plants take about 2½ years to develop, and farmers can’t respond quickly by simply planting more crops. “If there is a significant deficit then prices could skyrocket,” he said.

Dry river banks next to a coffee plantation show the extent of the recent drought in Brazil’s biggest coffee-producing state, Minas Gerais.



Photo:

Jonne Roriz/Bloomberg News

Write to Will Horner at [email protected] and Jeffrey T. Lewis at [email protected]

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Surprising Ways to Reuse Your Old Socks | Sidnaz Blog

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Don’t throw away those old socks just yet.

In the video above, we share some ways old socks can be made useful again—like making your very own heating pad (just add rice!) or packing a drinking glass. And who needs to buy dog toys when a tennis ball and an old sock will do?

This article was originally published on June 12, 2019, and updated on July 1, 2021.

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