Tesla, Microsoft, Boeing, Texas | Stock Market News Today


Stock futures are rising, with technology shares on track to lead gains ahead of a policy decision from the Federal Reserve. Here’s what we’re watching in Wednesday’s trading:

A Texas Instruments office in San Diego, Calif., April 24, 2018.



Photo:

mike blake/Reuters

Chart of the Day
  • A mania in clean-energy stocks holds lessons for ESG investors, writes James Mackintosh. This is the third in a series of Streetwise columns taking a critical look at sustainable investing.

Write to James Willhite at [email protected]

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Dow Closes Lower as Bank Stocks Fall | Stock Market News Today


The stock market’s winter selloff deepened this week, pushing all three major indexes further into the red for 2022.

The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average both fell a second straight week, while the Nasdaq Composite has been down the last three. Investors continued to sell bonds, pushing the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note up for a fourth straight week, notching its biggest rise over that stretch since mid-March.

Investors were still assessing the outlook for interest rates and how fast the Federal Reserve will move to tame inflation, roiling the stock and bond markets. At the same time, a rise in Covid-19 cases has weighed on sentiment, although there are signs that infections may be nearing a peak.

The week started on shaky footing, with stocks broadly falling and the Nasdaq nearing a correction before closing slightly higher. On Tuesday, Fed Chairman

Jerome Powell

reaffirmed the central bank’s view that inflation will likely peak by the middle of the year, while also suggesting interest rates will remain low. That helped halt a streak of declines for the S&P 500 and Dow industrials. 

Stocks, especially hard-hit sectors such as tech, appeared to regain some ground. But new pricing data released Wednesday and Thursday showed inflation remained hot last month, complicating the outlook. Stocks dropped Thursday, led by a 2.5% slide in the Nasdaq.

Lackluster earnings from some big U.S. banks, along with weak retail sales and manufacturing data, sent most of the market lower again on Friday until a late-session buying rush pushed the S&P 500 and Nasdaq back into positive territory. The S&P 500 added 3.82 points, or less than 0.1%, to 4662.85, and the Nasdaq gained 86.94 points, or 0.6%, to 14893.75. The Dow fell 201.81 points, or 0.6%, to 35911.81.

“We expect a more volatile environment, with big up days and big down days. Perception of inflation will be a driving force in the direction of the market,” said

David Donabedian,

chief investment officer of CIBC Private Wealth US. “It will be a bumpy ride.”

The late Friday turnaround wasn’t enough to avert another down week. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended up falling 0.3% over the last five trading days, while the Dow shed 0.9%. Markets are closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, shortening next week’s trading schedule.

The U.S. dollar last year saw its largest increase in value since 2015. That is good for many American consumers, but it could also put a dent in stocks and the U.S. economy. WSJ’s Dion Rabouin explains. Photo illustration: Sebastian Vega/WSJ

On Friday, the first dose of fourth-quarter corporate earnings reports gave investors a sobering outlook on corporate growth this year. Quarterly profits fell by double-digit percentages at

JPMorgan Chase

and

Citigroup,

ending a hot streak of big gains for most of 2021.

Shares of

JPMorgan Chase

slid $10.34, or 6.1%, to $157.89, and

Citigroup

dropped 85 cents, or 1.3%, to $66.93.

Wells Fargo

bucked the trend, adding $2.06, or 3.7%, to $58.06, after the bank reported that profit soared 86% in the final three months of 2021.

BlackRock

posted higher quarterly profit, and market gains lifted the investment firm’s assets under management above $10 trillion. Despite that, its shares declined $18.98, or 2.2%, to $848.60.

Still, analysts remain upbeat on corporate profits, predicting growth across the S&P 500.

Mark Haefele,

chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, said he expects another positive quarter, with earnings growth of 30% over the prior year.

Manufacturers, material firms and consumer discretionary stocks were also down following the economic data. Besides that,

Sherwin-Williams

declined $8.93, or 2.8%, to $308.46 after the paint maker lowered its guidance, citing a shortage of raw materials amid supply-chain and labor constraints.

Rising yields have motivated investors to rotate out of technology stocks.



Photo:

Courtney Crow/Associated Press

Some buying of large-cap growth stocks gave the market, and the Nasdaq, some support, as investors returned to a trade that tends to work well during periods of economic uncertainty.

Facebook

parent

Meta Platforms,

Microsoft,

Tesla

and

Netflix

all gained more than 1%.

Energy stocks jumped 2.4%, getting a boost from a climb in oil prices.

Casino stocks including

Las Vegas Sands

and

Wynn Resorts

jumped after Macau released a draft law that would cut the tenure for new casino licenses in half, but wouldn’t reduce the number of licenses. Las Vegas Sands added $5.33, or 14%, to $42.99, and Wynn Resorts gained $7.24, or 8.6%, to $91.47. 

Meanwhile, bond yields resumed their climb. Expectations for an interest-rate rise as soon as March have caused some investors to sell government bonds, pushing up yields. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note ticked up to 1.771% Friday, from 1.708% Thursday.

“Equity markets will continue to take their cues from the bond market,” said

Hugh Gimber,

a strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “What’s becoming clear is the Fed is realizing that inflationary pressures are larger and more broad-based than they previously expected.”

Cryptocurrency dogecoin jumped 12% from its 5 p.m. ET level Thursday after Elon Musk said Tesla was accepting payment for some merchandise with the currency, which was originally started as a joke. Bitcoin was recently down less than 1%.

Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 fell 1%.

South Korea’s central bank raised interest rates to pre-pandemic levels to fight inflation, and signaled that more increases could come this year. The country’s benchmark Kospi index declined 1.4%. Other major Asian stock indexes also closed lower. China’s Shanghai Composite fell 1%, and Japan’s Nikkei 225 shed 1.3%.

Write to Caitlin Ostroff at [email protected] and Michael Wursthorn at [email protected]

Corrections & Amplifications
For the week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.9%, and the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.3%. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said it was the Dow that fell 0.3% and the Nasdaq that declined 0.9%. (Corrected on Jan. 14)

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As Hedge Funds Endure Rocky Year, | Stock Market News Today


Investments in private companies are saving the year for stock-picking hedge funds.

Prominent managers that invest in both public and private companies in the same funds have seen their portfolio of public investments flail, weighed down by losses from January’s meme-stock rally and a retreat by fast-growing technology stocks. But soaring valuations of private companies and a hot U.S. IPO market have boosted their private wagers. That has helped mask their poor performance in public markets and driven up their overall returns.

Dan Sundheim’s $25 billion D1 Capital Partners, for example, is down 4% in its public bets for the year through September—but up 71% before fees in its private investments, said people familiar with the firm. The S&P 500 had a total return of 15.9% for the period.

D1 clients opt into share classes that offer varying levels of exposure to private investments. Clients in the share class that can invest up to 15% in private companies have seen gains of about 4.5%, after fees, for the period. The gains stand at 14% and 21% for clients in share classes that can invest up to 35% and 50% in private companies.

Meanwhile, Boston-based Whale Rock Capital Management was down 11.2% for its public investments in a hedge fund that can invest up to a quarter of its clients’ money in private companies, said people familiar with the fund. The performance of the fund’s private wagers shrank the fund’s losses to 3.3% for the year through September.

Hedge funds without private companies in their portfolios have had a rougher time. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Light Street Capital Management, which manages late-stage growth and other funds along with a hedge fund that only invests in public companies, is down 18.6% for the year through September in its hedge fund, said people familiar with the firm. That has brought the fund’s size down to about $1.7 billion. Its growth funds have fared much better, the people said, with Light Street’s first such fund, whose investments include the restaurant-software provider

Toast Inc.

and the software-development company

GitLab Inc.,

expected to have an internal rate of return of more than 100%.

The rush into private investing by public-market investors has helped fuel surging valuations for private companies. And as hedge funds, along with mutual funds and sovereign-wealth funds, deploy billions of dollars, they often crowd out venture and growth funds.

Hedge funds made up 27% of the money raised in private rounds this year through June, despite participating in just 4% of the deals, according to a recent report by Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

“These tech companies are growing exponentially, and managers want to capture that huge exponential growth for their clients,” said Susan Webb, founder and investment chief at the New York-based outsourced-investment firm Appomattox Advisory.

The higher-return potential is stark. Private-equity and venture strategies gained an average 14.2% a year in the decade ended in 2020, Goldman said, while hedge funds overall averaged half those annual returns over the period—and were subject to the stresses of regular redemption cycles.

Toast, a restaurant-software provider that went public last month, is an investment of a Light Street Capital Management growth fund.



Photo:

Richard Drew/Associated Press

Hybrid funds can offer distinct benefits, said Udi Grofman, global co-head of the private-funds group at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. “The beauty of the structure is that it allows the capital of the investors, in between being invested in private investments, to be exposed to public markets,” Mr. Grofman said. Clients typically sit on cash to fund capital calls by venture and private-equity funds.

Stock-picking hedge funds had a banner year in 2020, buoyed by markets that set new highs after bottoming that March.

Their fortunes in public markets have changed this year. The meme-stock rally in January, which sent the price of companies including GameStop Corp. and

AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.

to extraordinary heights, dealt losses to myriad hedge funds. Whale Rock gained 71% last year, while the D1 share class investing up to 15% of clients’ money in private companies climbed 60%; in January they lost about 11% and 30%, respectively, in just their public investments.

While D1 has almost recouped those losses, Whale Rock and other growth-oriented stock pickers have struggled. Fund managers say sector rotations that have alternately favored growth or value have made it difficult to navigate markets. Long out-of-favor sectors such as energy and financials have been on a tear.

Meanwhile, private markets have continued to be supportive. The U.S. IPO market is flourishing, and companies are continuing to raise more money in private markets than in the past. Hedge funds are contributing to the brisk pace of fundraising. D1 and Tiger Global Management, which manages a series of private-equity funds in addition to a hybrid hedge fund, have participated in private funding rounds this year through September at a pace of more than a deal a week for D1 and more than two deals every three days for Tiger, according to PitchBook Data Inc.

The 44-year-old Mr. Sundheim, who started D1 after several years as chief investment officer at Viking Global Investors, said at a recent capital-introduction conference that he hadn’t expected to get as big in private companies as he has. D1 is invested in 90 private companies, he said.

He said judgment was the only competitive advantage in public markets as private markets offered the additional benefit of firms’ reputations playing a role in gaining access to deals. He said D1 in its earliest investments acted as a resource to management teams so they would be strong references for D1. Mr. Sundheim also said he was confident in his portfolio of public investments over the next three to five years.

Write to Juliet Chung at [email protected]

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Should You Be Buying What Robinhood Is Selling? | Sidnaz Blog


In rare cases, such pitches have paid off big time. More often, you’d have done yourself a favor by taking roughly half your money and lighting it on fire instead.

Just as Robinhood isn’t the first brokerage to offer commission-free trading, it isn’t the first to seek to “democratize” investing or to sell a piece of itself to its own customers.

On June 23, 1971, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. became the first New York Stock Exchange firm catering to individual investors to offer its shares to the public.

Thirsty for fresh capital in a struggling stock market, Merrill flogged its shares to its own customers, tapping the firm’s “awesome recognition among that vast segment of the population,” reported The Wall Street Journal the next day. “Primarily small investors, the type long championed by Merrill Lynch, quickly purchased the entire amount.”

Nearly 400 insiders at the firm unloaded a total of 2 million shares in the offering. From its initial $28 per share, the stock shot to about $42—a 50% pop—then closed around $39. That valued Merrill at 30.5 times its prior-year earnings, much higher than the overall stock market’s price/earnings ratio of 18.7.

Less than three weeks later, Merrill announced that its net earnings had fallen nearly 50% from the prior quarter.

For the rest of 1971, Merrill’s stock lost 9.4%; the S&P 500 gained 4%, counting dividends.

In 1972, when the S&P 500 rose nearly 19%, Merrill sank 7.7%. And in 1973-74, when the S&P 500 lost 37%, Merrill’s stock slumped by 61%. In its first three full years, Merrill’s stock lost three-quarters of its value; the S&P 500 fell only 5%.

Here in 2021, Robinhood’s offering is one of several trading and investing IPOs:

Coinbase Global Inc.,

the cryptocurrency exchange, went public in April, and

Acorns Grow Inc.,

which helps users invest in tiny increments, said in May that it expects to go public later in the year. Since its Apr. 14 debut, Coinbase is down about 27%. Robinhood fell 8% on its first day of trading Thursday.

One of Wall Street’s oldest and frankest sayings is “When the ducks quack, feed ‘em”—meaning that whenever investors are eager to buy something, brokers will sell it like mad.

Back in 1971, that was the brokers’ own shares. Roughly half a dozen major firms sold stock to the public soon after Merrill, including Bache & Co. and Dean Witter & Co. By 1974, according to data from the Center for Research in Security Prices LLC, several of them had dealt losses at least as devastating as Merrill’s.

In 1987, Jane and Joe Investor got invited to join in on the fun of Charles Schwab Corp.’s IPO, when roughly three million of the offering’s eight million shares were reserved for employees and customers of the firm.

Unlike Merrill, which was rescued from the brink of failure in 2008 when

Bank of America Corp.

bought the firm, Schwab went on to generate spectacular long-term performance. Over the full sweep of time since its 1987 IPO, Schwab is up more than 26,500%, or 17.9% annualized. The S&P 500 gained less than 3,500%, or an average of 11.3% annually.

However, Schwab went public in late September 1987. Only 18 trading days later, on Oct. 19, the U.S. stock market took its biggest one-day fall in history, plunging more than 20%.

Schwab’s stock got brutalized. In their first year, Schwab’s shares fell 59.1%. After three years, the market as a whole had gained 0.6% annually; Schwab’s stock lost an annualized average of 6.9%, according to CRSP.

How many of the original buyers in 1987 stuck around long enough to reap the giant rewards that came much later? That’s impossible to know, but the likeliest answer has to be: very few.

Every once in a while, outside investors in a brokerage IPO do well.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

began trading on May 4, 1999. If you’d bought Goldman stock in the IPO and held it ever since, you’d have earned 9.1% a year, versus 7.6% in the S&P 500, according to FactSet.

Yet Goldman was a giant then, as it is now; it was late to the IPO party because it had held on to its partnership structure for so many years. Most brokerage IPOs, like Robinhood’s, occur when the firms are younger and smaller.

That makes them typical. Companies selling shares to the public for the first time tend to be small, with minimal profits; they also require additional invested capital to sustain their rapid growth.

That’s what Savina Rizova, global head of research at Dimensional Fund Advisors, an asset manager in Austin, Texas, calls “a toxic combination of characteristics that points to low expected returns.”

On average, IPOs have severely underperformed seasoned stocks in the long run. And, history suggests, brokerages doing IPOs are better at timing the market for themselves than for you.

Write to Jason Zweig at [email protected]

More from The Intelligent Investor

The brokerage app Robinhood has transformed retail trading. WSJ explains its rise amid a series of legal investigations and regulatory challenges. Photo illustration: Jacob Reynolds/WSJ

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Amazon’s New Day Has a Rough Start | Sidnaz Blog


The results create a bit more of a challenging setup for new CEO Andy Jassy.



Photo:

Patrick Fallon/Zuma Press

OK, so maybe

Jeff Bezos

isn’t quite going out on top.

The final quarter for

Amazon.com


AMZN -0.84%

under the direct management of its famous founder turned out to be a bit of a letdown. Revenue and operating income for the second quarter both fell shy of Wall Street’s estimates, as did the high end of the company’s revenue forecast for the current quarter. It was the first time the e-commerce titan missed the high end of its own sales projections in two years, according to data from FactSet.

Amazon’s


AMZN -0.84%

shares fell more than 7% following the results.

The company is still a juggernaut. Second-quarter revenue rose 27% to $113.1 billion, bringing trailing 12-month sales to more than $443 billion. That puts Amazon well on pace to overtake

Walmart

as the largest U.S. company by annual sales some time next year, while still growing at double-digit rates. Growth at the company’s crucial AWS cloud business also picked up, with revenue jumping 37% year over year compared with a 32% rise in the last quarter. That lines up with trends shown by cloud rivals

Microsoft

and Google earlier this week, suggesting that the market leader, AWS, is at least holding its ground.

But the boom in online sales Amazon enjoyed at the start of the pandemic created a challenging comparison for the most recent quarter. Thursday’s results confirmed the suspicions of some analysts that the company’s Prime Day sales event in late June underwhelmed. Amazon’s online stores segment saw revenue grow by only 16% to $53.2 billion in the second quarter, falling well short of analysts’ targets. Revenue growth from third-party and subscription services decelerated. Advertising revenue, reflected in the company’s “Other” segment, showed a strong jump of 87% year over year to $7.9 billion. But advertising still contributes only about 7% to Amazon’s total revenue.

The results create a bit more of a challenging setup for new CEO

Andy Jassy

as Amazon will face difficult comparisons for the rest of the year following its pandemic-fueled sales jump in 2020. But the bar seems low enough. The midpoint of the company’s revenue projection for the third quarter represents growth of 13% year over year. That would be Amazon’s slowest growth rate in 20 years, even with the pandemic picking back up and possibly driving more sales online.

Amazon’s new boss has plenty to do.

Write to Dan Gallagher at [email protected]

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Pinterest Shares Fall as U.S. Monthly Average Users Decline | Sidnaz Blog


Pinterest reported Thursday second-quarter net income of $69.4 million, compared with a loss of $100.7 million a year earlier.



Photo:

Gabby Jones/Bloomberg News

Shares of

Pinterest Inc.


PINS -6.01%

fell more than 14% in after-hours trading, as the online sharing platform said its monthly average users in the U.S. contracted during the quarter, a trend that accelerated this month.

The company reported 91 million monthly average users in the U.S. in the quarter, down 5% from a year earlier. Pinterest said that “engagement headwinds” continued this month, with monthly average users down 7% as of July 27. Globally, monthly average users increased 9% in the quarter.

“Our second quarter results reflect both the strength of our business and the recent shift in consumer behavior we’ve seen as people spend less time at home,” Chief Executive

Ben Silbermann

said in prepared remarks.

Pinterest saw its user growth soar during the pandemic, as shut-in consumers turned to the website for masks and other products. The company has said the pandemic may have pulled forward some user growth.

The company also reported Thursday second-quarter net income of $69.4 million, compared with a loss of $100.7 million a year earlier.

Adjusted earnings were 25 cents a share. Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting adjusted earnings 13 cents a share.

Revenue totaled $613.2 million, compared with $272.5 million a year earlier. Analysts expected $562 million in revenue.

Pinterest shares closed Thursday at $72.04 apiece, down 6%. So far this year, the stock is up 9.32%.

Write to Robert Barba at [email protected]

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Smaller but More Frequent Catastrophes Loom Over Insurance Sector | Sidnaz Blog


Less devastating than mega events such as earthquakes and hurricanes, these secondary perils, as they are known in the industry, happen relatively frequently and include hail, drought, wildfire, snow, flash floods and landslides.

Climate change and urban sprawl are driving a jump in secondary perils losses, said Tamara Soyka, Head Cat Perils EMEA at

Swiss Re.

Insurers and reinsurers, who traditionally focused on predicting big weather events that can cause widespread damage, are increasingly incorporating secondary-peril models.

Swiss Re, for instance, last year started considering pluvial—that is, heavy rainfall, similar to the recent European floods—flood zones when assessing risks.

A storm system over Europe dumped heavy rains in recent weeks, causing heavy floods in Germany, Belgium and parts of the Netherlands and Switzerland. The German Insurance Association on Wednesday said it expects insured losses could hit nearly $6 billion as a result of the flooding in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate. It doesn’t yet have estimates for the damage in Saxony and Bavaria.

Before-and-after images show the extent of damage in German towns hit by the region’s worst flooding in decades. Visiting one inundated village, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for more effort to combat future climate-related disasters. Photo: Satellite Image ©2021 Maxar Technologies

This year is expected to be the most damaging for the country since 2002, when insured storm damage totaled about €11 billion, equivalent to $12.98 billion, the association said. While mostly all residential buildings have windstorm and hail coverage, only 46% of homeowners have cover for heavy rain and floods.

Heavy rain, hailstorms and wind in Germany and Switzerland in June have already cost the industry an estimated $4.5 billion, according to analysts at Berenberg.

Analysts at

Moody’s Investors Service

in a note this week said German insurers “may find it challenging to protect homeowners against climate risk without significant price increases.”

Insurers paid out $81 billion for damages related to natural catastrophes in 2020, according to reinsurance giant Swiss Re, up 50% from 2019 and comfortably topping the $74 billion 10-year average for such losses.

Secondary peril events accounted for more than 70% of the $81 billion in natural catastrophe losses last year, according to the data.

Firms expected to take hits to their earnings from the European floods include Swiss Re,

Munich Re AG

and

Zurich Insurance Group,

according to analysts. Spokespeople for Swiss Re, Zurich and Munich Re declined to give estimates of the potential impact.

UBS Group AG analysts project $6 billion worth of losses for the industry, split into $2 billion for primary insurers and $4 billion for reinsurers.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you been affected by a natural disaster? What was your experience working with insurance companies? Join the conversation below.

The prospect of more intense weather has insurers rapidly updating their risk-assessment models and recalculating the price of insurance. Property insurers faced an estimated $18 billion bill for damage to homes and businesses from the long stretch of frigid weather in Texas and numerous other states, the equivalent of a major hurricane, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year.

In some cases, the increased frequency of extreme weather events can lead insurers to drop coverage altogether. Some insurers in California chose to not renew insurance policies for homeowners in high-risk areas for wildfires, the Journal reported in 2019. California wildfires the prior two years had killed dozens of people and racked up more than $24 billion in insured losses.

Analysts say the losses from the European flooding will be manageable for the industry. While they may dent quarterly or yearly earnings, they won’t have a seismic effect on their capital. If the coming U.S. hurricane season is a normal one, that will likely crimp earnings further for some.

Flooding in Altenahr, Germany. In some cases, the increased frequency of extreme weather events can lead insurers to drop coverage altogether.



Photo:

friedemann vogel/Shutterstock

The Euro Stoxx Insurance index is up 7.6% this year, trailing the broad Euro Stoxx 600 stock-market index, which is up nearly 15%. The insurance index has fallen 6.4% since March 30, which Berenberg analysts attribute to fears of potential dividend cuts due to recent natural catastrophes.

The costs of reinsurance in Asia and the U.S. went up over the past couple of years owing to hurricanes and wildfires, said Berenberg analyst Michael Huttner. But prices in Europe didn’t increase significantly over that period. The floods will likely help catastrophe pricing increase, said Mr. Huttner.

Will Hardcastle, an analyst at UBS, says this year is shaping up to be the fifth consecutive year that natural catastrophe losses will be above reinsurers’ budgeted level.

“The last five years would suggest you’re not getting appropriate pricing for it,” he said. “It’s always difficult to determine whether the trend is short term. Now at this point you have to be thinking it’s more structural” because of climate change, he said.

Write to Julie Steinberg at [email protected]

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Unilever Gives a Preview of Worsening Inflation Pinch | Sidnaz Blog


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.



Photo:

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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Stock Futures Rise Ahead of Earnings, Jobless Data | Sidnaz Blog


U.S. stock futures ticked higher ahead of a flurry of earnings reports and jobless figures that are expected to reach a fresh pandemic low.

S&P 500 futures gained 0.2% and Dow Jones Industrial Average futures strengthened 0.2%. Changes in futures don’t necessarily predict moves after the opening bell.

European stocks climbed Thursday for a three-day winning streak. The Stoxx Europe 600 added 0.5% in morning trade. Energy and utilities sectors led gains while consumer staples and healthcare sectors lost ground.

Unilever

slipped 3.4% as it posted its fourth consecutive session of declines.

The U.K.’s FTSE 100 rose 0.1%. Other stock indexes in Europe also mostly climbed as France’s CAC 40 gained 0.5%, the U.K.’s FTSE 250 added 0.6% and Germany’s DAX rose 0.7%.

The Swiss franc and the British pound were up 0.1% and 0.3% respectively against the U.S. dollar and the euro was flat against the U.S. dollar, with 1 euro buying $1.18.

In commodities, international benchmark Brent crude fell 0.1% to $72.16 a barrel. Gold was flat, at $1,802.60 a troy ounce.

German 10-year bund yields were down to minus 0.399% and 10-year U.K. government debt known as gilts yields were down to 0.592%. The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury fell to 1.270% from 1.279%. Yields move in the opposite direction from prices.

Indexes in Asia gained as Hong Kong’s Hang Seng climbed 1.6% and China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite rose 0.3%.

Traders gathered for the IPO of VTEX at the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday.



Photo:

brendan mcdermid/Reuters

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



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Netflix May Find No Business Like Show Business | Sidnaz Blog


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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