Thursday Morning Reads
- Recovery Is Slowing Down
- Inflation? Not in Japan
- Wall Street Has Surrendered
- Digital Version of the Euro
- Why Wall Street Is Afraid of a Digital Dollar
- $155 Million Crypto Scheme
- JPMorgan Hoards Cash
- How the Covid Crisis Will Shape Flying
- Inside Facebook’s Data Wars
- Twitter’s Disappearing Snapchat Clone
- Startup Revolut Hits $33 Billion Valuation
- TSMC Eyes Expansion in U.S.
- Mastercard Has Been Banned
- What Happens When a Private Club Goes Public?
- The Unlikely Road to Riches for Russia’s Newest Billionaire
Open Interest Changes:
Last month, Volkswagen (OTCPK:VWAGY) paved its way toward an EV future by pledging to halt sales of ICE vehicles in Europe by 2035, while Ford (NYSE:F) has said it will only sell EVs in Europe by 2030. Volvo (OTCPK:GELYF) is retiring the ICE engine and hybrids by the same year and Honda (NYSE:HMC) announced plans to phase out gas-powered cars by 2040. Meanwhile, Stellantis (NYSE:STLA) is no longer planning to invest in the development of new internal combustion engines, while General Motors (NYSE:GM) will stop building polluting vehicles by 2035.
European Green Deal: "To ensure that drivers are able to charge or fuel their vehicles at a reliable network across Europe, the revised Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulation will require Member States to expand charging capacity in line with zero-emission car sales, and to install charging and fueling points at regular intervals on major highways: every 60 kilometers for electric charging and every 150 kilometers for hydrogen refueling," the European Commission said in a statement.
Just don't catch fire... General Motors on Wednesday told owners of 2017-2019 Bolt EVs not to park their vehicles inside or charge them unattended overnight after two of the EVs went up in flames. The cars had even been repaired as part of a recall of 69,000 vehicles that were flagged for fire risks, but that didn't seem to help. Other EV rollouts have also been interrupted by fires involving lithium-ion batteries, including Ford, BMW and Hyundai (OTCPK:HYMTF), which have issued recalls in recent months for new battery-powered models. (54 comments)
Tech shares may be gaining some renewed momentum as coronavirus infections rapidly rise in the U.S. and around the globe. Nasdaq futures are pointing 0.4% higher amid fears of a return to stay-at-home culture, while the Dow and S&P 500 dip into the red. At the last count, the number of new U.S. COVID-19 cases per day has doubled over the past three weeks to 26,000, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.
Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell is quelling investor fears about a rollback of the central bank's easy policies despite the recent spike in inflation. Powell will be on Capitol Hill again today, where he'll appear before the Senate for his semiannual testimony on monetary policy.
Notable exchange: "According to the NFIB, 47% of small businesses raised average selling prices in June. That's the highest since 1981," Representative Andy Barr (R-KY) asked the Fed Chair at yesterday's hearing. "We have a great network through the reserve banks, we hear that through a loudspeaker," Powell responded. "Regarding [inflation] expectations, we don't see problems on that front, but if expectations do move up in a way that is troubling, which we would say is materially above and for a persistent amount of time, we would be concerned and we would react to that."
Elsewhere: Crude oil futures are sinking as traders weigh conflicting reports about a potential compromise between Saudi Arabia and the UAE on production levels. The latest bank earnings are also on tap this morning, with Morgan Stanley (MS), U.S. Bancorp (USB) and Bank of New York Mellon (BK) set to report. On the economic calendar, investors will get the latest labor snapshot in the U.S., with weekly jobless claims data reported at 8:30 a.m. ET.
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Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) is planning a foray into video games, hiring a former Electronic Arts (EA) and Facebook (FB) executive to lead the effort. Mike Verdu will join the company as vice president of game development as the streaming arena gets increasingly crowded with rivals like Disney+ (DIS) and HBO Max (T). Verdu also served as chief creative officer for Zynga (ZNGA) between 2009 and 2012, and has been involved with titles like The Sims, Plants vs. Zombies and the Star Wars franchises.
Not a totally new push: At the E3 gaming conference in 2019, Netflix revealed it would release a console and PC title based on Stranger Things, and later unveiled a game based on Dark Tactics. The same year, it pointed to Fortnite as its competition in a letter to shareholders. The company has also produced anime adaptations of popular gaming franchises, including Dota and Castlevania.
Netflix hopes to offer video games on its streaming platform within the next year and has started advertising for developer-related positions on its website. Gaming would appear as a new programming genre (like documentaries and stand-up specials), though the company doesn't currently have plans to charge for the extra content. The latest news dinged shares of turnaround hopeful GameStop (NYSE:GME), which fell 7% on Wednesday, while Netflix headed higher, finishing the day up 1.4% and rising further in AH trading.
Analyst commentary: "This is a natural extension of Netflix's content strategy, allowing it to mine intellectual property from popular shows like Stranger Things. Though it may not generate much additional revenue, it will help deepen engagement and increase the service’s appeal and pricing power," said Geetha Ranganathan, media analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. "Don't expect this to be a turning point, but it shows that the company will explore new formats to increase time spent on the platform." (3 comments)
Fresh data from China overnight showed the nation's economy expanding at a 7.9% pace in the second quarter, boosted by strong readings on industrial output (+8.3% Y/Y), retail sales (+13.9% Y/Y) and fixed-asset investment (+12.6% Y/Y) for June. However, the GDP number did miss expectations for a rise of 8.1%, weighed down by higher raw material costs and new coronavirus outbreaks. The figure was also far slower than the 18.3% Y/Y jump recorded during the first three months of the year, but no one had forecast that rate to continue given the statistical distortions from the beginning of the pandemic.
Bigger picture: Despite some economic resilience, expectations are building that policymakers may have to do more to support the recovery. Beijing announced a cut to its new reserve ratio requirement last week, freeing up more liquidity in the banking sector for lending. Stock in Shanghai even rose 1% following the latest data on increased chances China will intervene more forcefully to keep its growth momentum going in the latter half of 2021.
"The domestic economic recovery is uneven," said Liu Aihua, an official at the National Bureau of Statistics of China. "We should also be aware that the coronavirus continues to mutate globally, and external instabilities and uncertainties abound."
Tough talk: The Biden administration has agreed to extend the Trump era suspension of economic dialogue with China, which had governed ties between the two nations during the Bush and Obama years. In fact, several U.S. actions in recent days have deepened the confrontational approach, including new import controls for Xinjiang, warning American businesses in Hong Kong and excluding Beijing from a digital trade agreement. For China, its economic strategy has been focused on controlling capital outflows and boosting domestic consumption (especially post-COVID), so engaging with the outside world may not be a top priority at the moment. (3 comments)
"The Governing Council of the European Central Bank has decided to launch the investigation phase of a digital euro project," the central bank announced in a press release. "Our work aims to ensure that in the digital age citizens and firms continue to have access to the safest form of money, central bank money."
Another excerpt: "The investigation phase will last 24 months and aim to address key issues regarding design and distribution. A digital euro must be able to meet the needs of Europeans while at the same time helping to prevent illicit activities and avoiding any undesirable impact on financial stability and monetary policy. This will not prejudge any future decision on the possible issuance of a digital euro, which will come only later. In any event, a digital euro would complement cash, not replace it."
Go deeper: The statement discusses Bitcoin (BTC-USD) and the concerns around energy usage, noting the environmental friendliness of the digital euro vs. the most popular cryptocurrency. The effort is part of a drive by central banks to meet growing demand for digital payments and tackle a boom in private sector cryptos and decentralized finance. The ECB has also experimented using its own instant payment system in combination with distributed ledger technology (a.k.a. blockchain) to issue and distribute its digital euros. (143 comments)
In Asia, Japan -1.2%. Hong Kong -0.8%. China +1%. India +0.5%.
In Europe, at midday, London -0.6%. Paris -0.8%. Frankfurt -1%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow -0.3%. S&P -0.1%. Nasdaq +0.4%. Crude -0.9% at $72.50. Gold +0.3% at $1830.80. Bitcoin +0.3% at $32509.
Ten-year Treasury Yield -3 bps to 1.33%
Today's Economic Calendar
8:30 Initial Jobless Claims
8:30 Philly Fed Business Outlook
8:30 Empire State Mfg Survey
8:30 Import/Export Prices
9:15 Industrial Production
9:30 Powell Testifies on Semi-Annual Monetary Policy Report
10:30 EIA Natural Gas Inventory
11:00 Fed's Evans Speech
4:30 PM Fed Balance Sheet
What else is happening...
Won't pass? Cannabis stocks hit on legalization bill concerns.