Friday's Market Prepper
More cries for a March rate hike may be heard today as investors shift their attention to Janet Yellen, who will speak at 1 p.m. ET at the Executives' Club of Chicago. Market expectations for an increase are already through the roof, but there is chatter that Yellen may try and give herself some wiggle room in case next Friday's jobs report comes out weak. It'll be the last big Fed speech before the March 14-15 policy meeting.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced he will recuse himself from any investigations related to President Trump's election campaign amid backlash over his testimony about contacts with Russia. "In retrospect, I should have slowed down and said I did meet with one official a couple of times," he said at a press conference, but maintained that he was "honest and correct" in his answer.
A pickup in energy has led Japan's consumer prices to rise for the first time in more than a year, giving Abenomics and the BOJ a helping hand in their campaign to overcome deflation. It's still a ways away from the central bank's 2% target. The core consumer price index, which excludes fresh food but includes energy, rose 0.1% Y/Y in January after falling 0.2% in the previous month.
China's National People's Congress opens Sunday with over 3,000 officials descending on Beijing, where the country's rubber-stamp parliament will ratify recent decisions made behind closed doors. The gathering will likely be dominated by topics including U.S. foreign policy, Hong Kong politics, China's economic outlook and tax reform, and the performance of some rising political stars.
A sense of irony? Seeking to head off calls for a second Scottish independence referendum, the U.K. Prime Minister said the move would "wrench Scotland out of its biggest market" at a Tory conference in Glasgow. Theresa May insisted that "logic and facts" were on the side of the U.K., declaring that "we are four nations, but at heart one people".
Shares of Snap popped in the company's IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, finishing the day 44% higher at $24.48 per share. One big winner of the offering is Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), the lead underwriter in SNAP's public debut (it's set to bring in almost $26M in fees). Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), another key underwriter, could make as much as $21M from the listing.
Spotify just hit play on a celebratory playlist, recording a major milestone of 50M paying subscribers. That means the music streaming service gained 20M users in a single year, and has more than twice the audience size of Apple Music (NASDAQ:AAPL). The clock is ticking for an IPO... according to a February TechCrunch report, Spotify (Private:MUSIC) is considering a potential U.S. stock market listing.
Cause of the AWS outage? An employee trying to speed up the company's S3 billing system tried to take a few servers offline, but mistyped the command, affecting more servers than intended. That led to a cascade of failures that ultimately knocked out S3 and other services. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is now adding safeguards to prevent server capacity from falling too quickly or below a minimum level.
With the launch of Nintendo Switch today, the Japanese console maker hopes to climb back into the raging gaming wars after being eclipsed by Sony (NYSE:SNE) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). Although the Switch can be played at home and on the road, cautious reviews have created some unease among investors. Nintendo ADRs (OTCPK:NTDOY) are down almost 20% over the last two months.
Samsung Group leader Jay Y. Lee will go on trial for bribery and embezzlement next Thursday, amid a corruption scandal that has rocked South Korea and led to the impeachment of the president. "We are preparing hard, thinking that the upcoming Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) trial... could be the trial of the century that the entire world will be watching," special prosecutor Park Young-soo told reporters.
Caterpillar closed down 4.3% yesterday after federal agents raided its Illinois offices, marking the stock's worst one-day decline since June and whacking about 30 points from the DJIA. According to WSJ, the search appears to escalate an investigation into tax issues related to Caterpillar's (NYSE:CAT) parts business and financial transactions involving one of its subsidiaries in Switzerland.
Costco is raising membership fees - the retailer's main profit driver - as profits slowed more than expected during the holiday quarter. The price increase, which takes effect June 1 and affects about 35M members, would bring U.S. and Canada memberships to $60, up $5. Executive memberships will increase to $120, up $10. Costco (NASDAQ:COST) last raised its membership fee in 2011.
The Financial Stability Oversight Council met late on Thursday afternoon to review its designation of a nonbank firm as "too big to fail," according to a statement from the Treasury Department. While it didn't name the firm, only three nonbank companies have been labeled as SIFIs to date: American International Group (NYSE:AIG), Prudential Financial (NYSE:PRU) and MetLife (NYSE:MET).
The London Stock Exchange is continuing to "work hard" on its planned merger with Deutsche Boerse (OTCPK:DBOEY), as the exchange posted a rise in underlying profits and hiked its total dividend. "The next milestone is expected to be the outcome of European Commission Phase II process on or before 3 April 2017," LSE (OTCPK:LNSTY) said in a statement.
Gunmaker shares declined in extended trade after American Outdoor Brands (NASDAQ:AOBC), formerly known as Smith & Wesson, reported FQ3 sales that were weaker than expected and said the gun business has slowed after unusual demand. "Toward the end of the quarter, consumer firearm purchasing began to cool," said James Debney, American Outdoor's president and CEO. After-hours: AOBC -7.5%; RGR -1.7%
Boeing has accepted 1,880 voluntary layoffs from its union workers in the Seattle area, as part of the planemaker's drive to cut costs through job reductions and other measures. "These are all voluntary, where people planned to retire or had other plans," said Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751. BA slightly lower premarket.
Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo will travel to Detroit today, meeting with executives from Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM) to discuss the state of U.S.-Mexico trade and the future of the NAFTA. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said Mexico would only stay in the trade agreement if it suited the nation, and he rejected the imposition of any tariffs or quotas.
PSA Group hopes to announce the acquisition of Opel within days after narrowing differences on pension liabilities at GM's European division and other issues, sources told Reuters. Talks are progressing well ahead of an upcoming PSA (OTCPK:PEUGF) board meeting, and the deal could be announced as soon as Monday, the eve of the Geneva car show.
After a standoff with California's DMV in December, UBER is seeking permits to put its self-driving cars back on the state's roads. Two of Uber's autonomous cars are already wheeling around San Francisco, but they are being driven manually while the company "takes steps to complete our application." Currently, 23 companies are on the list of approved participants for the program.
In Asia, Japan -0.5%. Hong Kong -0.7%. China -0.3%. India flat.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.2%. Paris +0.5%. Frankfurt -0.1%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow flat. S&P -0.1%. Nasdaq -0.1%. Crude +0.3% to $52.79. Gold -0.4% to $1227.50.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 2.5%
Today's Economic Calendar
9:45 PMI Services Index
10:00 ISM Non-Manufacturing Index
10:15 Fed's Evans and Lacker at Monetary Policy Forum
1:00 PM Baker-Hughes Rig Count
1:00 PM Janet Yellen speech
1:00 PM Stanley Fischer speech