Friday Morning Reads
- Global Implications
- World’s Most Volatile Commodity
- China Scrutinizes Its Entrepreneurs
- A Huge Backlog
- Fed Wakes Sleeping Dollar
- Investors Dump Hedges
- Mortgage Rates Shoot Higher
- The Problem With El Salvador’s Bitcoin Law
- Mark Cuban ‘Hit’ by Titan Crypto Crash
- Nielsen Now Knows When You Are Streaming
- How To Prepare For a Lengthy Bull Market
President Biden signed a bill on Thursday to make Juneteenth a national holiday after the measure passed the Senate unanimously and was approved 415-14 in the House. The day commemorates the 1865 date when Union General Gordon Granger arrived with federal troops in Galveston, Texas, and issued an order freeing the last of America's slaves. "Great nations don't ignore their most painful moments," President Biden said during a ceremony at the White House. "They embrace them."
Corporate action: Spurred by the George Floyd protests in 2020, many companies already marked Juneteenth last year, expanding awareness of the holiday. Some 200 firms made the day a paid holiday, including Twitter (TWTR), Square (SQ), Nike (NKE) and Spotify (SPOT), as well as Adobe (ADBE), Altria (MO), Lyft (LYFT) and Uber (UBER). JPMorgan Chase (JPM) also closed its bank branches early, while the Detroit Three - GM (GM), Ford (F) and Chrysler Stellantis (STLA) - held moments of silence.
The new federal law will prompt many other American employers, which peg their holiday schedule to the federal calendar, to decide whether to give their workers a paid day off. Many of those decisions will take place next year, given the last-minute signing of the bill. U.S. stock and bond markets will also remain open today due to the advanced notice needed to coordinate holiday closures.
Outlook: It took 15 years for the major exchanges to close in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which was the last federal holiday passed in 1983. However, many are expecting quicker decision-making this time around. SIFMA and CME Group (NASDAQ:CME) have already incorporated the holiday into their schedule next year, while the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE:ICE) and Nasdaq (NASDAQ:NDAQ) will rely on input from the financial industry - like banks, broker-dealers and regulators - on whether to close for Juneteenth in 2022. (100 comments)
Some peculiar market activity has been taking place since the latest Fed meeting, with investors unwinding some of this year's dominant reflation trades and the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 rising to a record high. Commodities are also stumbling, with oil on the decline and gold tumbling to below $1,800 an ounce. Soybean futures have meanwhile wiped out their gains for 2021, while the rallies in corn, lumber, platinum and nickel are losing steam.
Many are pointing to a Federal Reserve that recognizes it might have to raise rates - earlier than expected - to deal with a possible inflationary threat. While the current dot plot signals hikes that are two years away, the sentiment may be helping undercut the reflation trade that had been dominant since January. Overnight, Dow and S&P 500 futures hugged the flatline, while contracts tied to the Nasdaq rose 0.2%.
Weren't higher rates supposed to dent growth and tech? Why are they on the way up? Investors could be honing in on the pace at which rates are expected to rise, which the central bank signaled would be slow even after 2023. The fact that Powell also did not discuss tapering (even taking it out of the vocabulary), could signal expansionary policy is here to stay for the next while. That's in addition to the "transitory" inflation outlook, which is starting to take root among the investing community.
Go deeper: Over the last two sessions, the spread between 5- and 30-year Treasury yields continued to widen and is now below where it started the year. That news helped drive cyclical shares to the backseat, with money flowing into defensive names like healthcare and consumer staples. Tightening from the Fed could also temper GDP growth, a concern expressed by Goldman Sachs. "Investors may be interpreting the Fed's hawkish tilt Wednesday as a sign that an extended U.S. post-pandemic economic expansion may be a bit harder to achieve in a potentially emerging environment of less accommodative monetary policy." (4 comments)
In a 7-2 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, marking the third time the High Court has upheld the law that went into effect in 2010. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch were the two dissenters, who accused the majority of ducking constitutional issues. "In all three episodes, with the Affordable Care Act facing a serious threat, the court has pulled off an improbable rescue... it follows the same pattern as installments one and two."
Backdrop: The case was brought by Texas and other Republican-leaning states, which had sought to strike down the law on technical arguments after Congress reduced the penalty for failing to buy health insurance to zero. The decision, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, concluded that none of the plaintiffs were hurt from eliminating the fine and thus lacked legal standing to bring the lawsuit in the first place. The decision largely left aside addressing the core of the law.
"A big win for the American people," President Biden tweeted after the ruling. "With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD. And it's here to stay."
Statistics: According to a report last month from the Department of Health and Human Services, 31M Americans had health coverage through the Affordable Care Act, including 11.3M people enrolled in the Obamacare exchanges and 14.8M who received coverage under the law's expansion of Medicaid. Another 1.2M Americans chose policies this year during a special enrollment period that Biden launched in mid-February to expand coverage to the uninsured (it runs until August). (126 comments)
Shares of L Brands (NYSE:LB) slumped 5% on Thursday, amid selling in the broader market and following the latest steps to turn around Victoria's Secret. The lingerie brand is ditching its "Angels" supermodels to embark on a new journey of becoming a leading "advocate" for female empowerment. The new crew, called the VS Collective, will consist of women like actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas and transgender model Valentina Sampaio, as well as soccer star and gender equity campaigner Megan Rapinoe.
Details: The group will advise the brand, appear in ads and podcasts, and promote Victoria's Secret on social media. They join a company that has an entirely new executive team and is creating a board of directors in which all but one seat will be occupied by women. L Brands founder Les Wexner, the company's former CEO, stepped down from the board last May, giving way for seismic shifts at VS, which he bought in 1982.
"The Angels are no longer culturally relevant," Victoria's Secret CEO Martin Waters told the NYT. "I've known that we needed to change this brand for a long time, we just haven't had the control of the company to be able to do it. We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want."
Will ladies buy the vision? The marketing shift is a big one, especially given the fact that Victoria's Secret is set to be spun off later this summer. Shoppers have already been "responding positively" to the new merchandise, according to the company, which included its first-ever Mother's Day campaign with a pregnant model. UBS analyst Jay Sole also expects a sustainable comeback, predicting U.S. sales next year to return to the 2016 peak of $7.8B. L Brands has even raised its financial forecasts, citing momentum at Victoria's Secret, and the stock has risen more than 300% over the past year. (20 comments)
What else is happening...
Plunging interest rates ding banks and mortgage REITs.
A quarter of U.S. TV time is spent on streaming - Nielsen.
U.S. invests another $3B on COVID-19 antiviral development.
Mark Zuckerberg: VR will eventually reach scale of phones, PCs.
"Based on what data?" Musk renews criticism of "greener" Bitcoin.
Thursday's Key Earnings
Adobe (NASDAQ:ADBE) +2.4% AH on easy FQ2 beats, upside guidance.
Kroger (NYSE:KR) +4.3% as COVID eating habits boosted sales.
Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ:SWBI) +5.4% AH after earnings topper, dividend boost.
In Asia, Japan -0.2%. Hong Kong +0.9%. China flat. India +0.3%.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.9%. Paris -0.2%. Frankfurt -0.6%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow flat. S&P flat. Nasdaq +0.2%. Crude -1% at $70.35. Gold +1% at $1793.20. Bitcoin -5.3% at $37381.
Ten-year Treasury Yield -2 bps to 1.49%
Today's Economic Calendar
1:00 PM Baker-Hughes Rig Count