Monday Morning Reads
- Fastest Rate in 9 Years
- Fed Is Headed for a Clash
- Buy, Sell, Repeat!
- Gold Can Do What Bonds Can’t
- Retail Collapses Pile Up
- Turning iPhones Into Payment Terminals
- The Correct Asset Allocation
- Is the Payroll Employment Report Accurate?
- SPAC SPAC SPAC SPAC SPAC
- The Battle of the Bubbles
- Do Technology Stocks Dominate?
Microsoft is committed to trying to buy TikTok's U.S. operations, after CEO Satya Nadella discussed a potential deal during a phone call on Sunday with President Trump. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) said in a blog post that it will move quickly to pursue discussions with TikTok parent ByteDance (BDNCE), aiming to complete negotiations by Sept. 15. "Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns," the company said. "It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury." The company's aim is to build on TikTok's popular user experience with adding privacy and security protections. The proposed transaction has gained the blessing of top Trump administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, as well as several Republican lawmakers, after the president's Friday night comments that he preferred a TikTok ban in the U.S. instead of a sale took all sides by surprise.
The U.S. July employment report, to be released this Friday, will have a binary flavor to it. If the jobs situation is consistent with economists' views, it should give investors more confidence in the economy's health while weak data will weigh on investors' near-term enthusiasm. Current consensus is a rise of 1.65M jobs, albeit a bearish drop of ~27% from last Thursday's projection of 2.25M. Congress is trying to cobble together another stimulus package but, unsurprisingly, Republicans and Democrats are at loggerheads over the specifics.
Despite concerns over a truncated 60-game season and empty seats in stadiums, Major League Baseball's opening week has been a resounding success. Games aired nationally during opening weekend (July 23-26) drew more than twice as many viewers as a year ago. Walt Disney's (NYSE:DIS) ESPN said that its first 12 broadcasted games averaged ~1.2M viewers, up 34% compared to last year. Fox Sports (NASDAQ:FOX) also enjoyed a double-digit rise in ratings. According to Michael Mulvihill, Fox Sports head of strategy and analytics, the strong start reflects pent-up demand and little competition from other major U.S. sports. The season, though, is facing its first stern test after 18 members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for COVID-19 leading to the cancellations of certain games by several clubs. 17 games have been postponed to date.
The Fed is preparing to abandon its long-held practice of raising interest rates to preempt overheating in the economy, citing persistently low U.S. inflation. Chairman Jerome Powell hinted at the shift in a news conference last week when he disclosed that the central bank would soon complete a comprehensive review of its policy-making strategy. The change is unlikely to alter much since interest rates are barely above zero and are expected to remain low for the foreseeable future. Longer term, central bankers, economists and investors expect rates to return to a more normal 4% or so once the economic recovery/expansion has matured.
During an interview yesterday on Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that President Trump will announce new action this week against Chinese software companies that he perceives are threats to national security, including TikTok and WeChat that, he says, are "feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party." In a separate interview, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin declared that "we are not keeping TikTok in its current form." The expected actions will be the latest salvo in the deterioration in U.S./Sino relations.
Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Company, known as Xiao-i, has filed a lawsuit in a Shanghai court against Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) claiming infringement on a patent covering a voice assistant similar to Siri. The company seeks 10B yuan ($1.43B) in damages and, if successful, could prevent the tech giant from selling many of its products in China. In late June, China's Supreme Court ruled that Xiao-i owns the patent which ended a process that involved several trials since 2012. It is the third time in less than a decade that Apple has faced trademark and patent challenges in its #2 market (behind the U.S.). The company has yet to comment on the matter.
According to White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, the pandemic is in a "new phase" that is different from the March/April period with "extraordinarily widespread" cases in both urban and rural areas. Reemphasizing the essential role of wearing masks and distancing, Dr. Birx said, "To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus and that is why we keep saying, no matter where you live in America, you need to wear a mask and socially distance, do the personal hygiene pieces." She also says super-spreading events are the main concern, not super-spreading individuals. Per Johns Hopkins case tracker, U.S. infections are now over 4.6M with over 154K deaths.
Talks between Republican and Democratic leaders over the specifics of the latest round, the fourth, of economic stimulus are proceeding down the familiar contentious path. Both sides agree on sending $1,200 checks to most Americans but the GOP is apparently balking at a boost to unemployment insurance which was set at $600 per week but recently lapsed. Democrats want to preserve the $600 amount while Republicans want to cut it to $200 due to cost concerns. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is accusing President Trump of standing in the way of a deal. On Face the Nation yesterday, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said, "I'm not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term."
Seven & i Holdings (OTCPK:SVNDF) indirect subsidiary 7-Eleven has agreed to acquire Speedway from certain subsidiaries of Marathon Petroleum (NYSE:MPC) for $21B in cash. The Enon, Ohio-based chain operates ~3900 convenience stores in 36 U.S. states. The transaction, which includes a 15-year fuel supply agreement for about 7.7B gallons per year, should close in Q1 2021.
The Caixin China manufacturing purchasing managers index hit its highest point since 2011, lending more credence to inklings of a recovery there. China's official PMI rose to its own four-month high last week, and it's got a bigger sample, focused on larger state-owned companies. Caixin focuses on smaller manufacturers, and it hit 52.8, the third straight month it was over 50, signaling expansion.
Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) has sued Monadelphous Engineering Associates (OTCPK:MOPHY) over a fire at Rio's Western Australia iron ore processing facility last year. Monadelphous says Rio is claiming MEA breached terms of a contract, and that Rio is seeking A$493M (about $351M) tied to its inability to process iron ore at the plant during repairs.
What else is happening...
Iran stock market hits record high despite sanctions and battered economy.
In Asia, Japan +2.24%. Hong Kong -0.56%. China +1.75%. India -1.64%.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.56%. Paris +0.97%. Frankfurt +1.86%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow -0.05%. S&P +0.10%. Nasdaq +0.52%. Crude -1.32% to $39.74. Gold +0.02% to $1,986.30. Bitcoin -0.75% to $11,164.
Ten-year Treasury Yield +1.3bps to 0.549%