Thursday Morning Reads

Thursday Morning Reads







U.S. stock index futures are looking at a positive open after a late drop in U.S. equities yesterday, stoked by the minutes of the Fed's last policy meeting and fresh concerns about higher interest rates. "We've been ignoring corporate news. The market has been focused on higher bond yields and rising rates, and those two concerns have overshadowed earnings, which have been strong," said Mark Grant, chief global strategist at B. Riley FBR.


President Trump's Council of Economic Advisers has warned that taxing gasoline to pay for infrastructure improvements is an "imperfect" system. "The gas tax's current design isn't really a 21st century design - that the gas tax was set at levels that were needed to fund highways back in the days when fuel economy was really low and we didn't have electric cars," said Kevin Hassett, the council's chairman.

The Treasury Department is looking to recast a central pillar of Dodd-Frank known as orderly liquidation authority (OLA), which allows the FDIC to take control of an insolvent bank and restructure it using federal money. It would be replaced by a proposed "Chapter 14" bankruptcy process. However, OLA would still be kept as a fail-safe in the event that one or more major banks are insolvent and could cause a major financial crisis.

Hoping to spur more initial public offerings, which have fallen by nearly 50% since the late 1990s, the SEC is weighing a deregulatory move that would permit all companies to stage private talks with investors before announcing they will sell stock, WSJ reports. The step would boost an earlier action that allows firms to keep sensitive financial filings under wraps if they don’t go through with their IPO.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has proposed holding a "mega-election" after the opposition coalition said it would boycott the "rigged" presidential poll in April. He wants to add legislative, state and municipal votes to provide "democratic renewal." Should Maduro win those too, his United Socialist Party of Venezuela would control nearly every elected office in the country.

The Trump administration is considering new sanctions against Russia in response to election meddling and last year's devastating "NotPetya" cyber attack. The White House said in January it would not immediately impose additional sanctions on Russia despite a newly passed Congressional law, as it would penalize foreign governments and companies doing business with Russia's defense and intelligence sectors.


Barclays -0.7% premarket after the bank reported a full-year loss of £1.92B for 2017, due in part to the tax overhaul in the U.S. and a weaker dollar. CEO Jes Staley said he also has no plans to leave Barclays (NYSE:BCS) despite an ongoing investigation by regulators on his treatment of internal whistleblowers. He took charge of the bank in 2015 and is its fifth CEO in seven years.

Theresa May is bracing for Unilever (ULUN) to choose the Netherlands over the U.K. for its new unified headquarters, FT reports, following months of political pressure from both sides in an "emotional" atmosphere supercharged by Brexit. A final decision has not been taken, though the issue is expected to be decided at the Anglo-Dutch group's next board meeting in March.

United Technologies is studying a plan to split up a portfolio that includes aerospace, elevators and air conditioners, with a decision to be announced by the end of this year. "The real question is do you get a significant multiple expansion by having separate companies," CEO Greg Hayes told the Barclays investor conference in Miami. "That's the question for the UTX board."

Jeff Immelt was often overly optimistic in how he ran General Electric (NYSE:GE), according to a WSJ report that cited more than a dozen insiders as saying his unwillingness to hear bad news led to serious consequences at the company. GE lowered its 2018 profit outlook on Wednesday and said it has no intention of selling down its majority stake in Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHGE) before 2019, but has come up with a list of assets as part of a $20B divestiture target.

Another top executive is leaving Ford (NYSE:F) after an internal investigation confirmed incidents of "inappropriate" behavior. Raj Nair had been in charge of the carmaker's North America division since June 2017. "This comes at a particularly bad time for Ford, which only last spring ousted Mark Fields as CEO," said Michelle Krebs, analyst at F -0.2%premarket.

Following a slowdown in e-commerce sales over the holidays, Walmart (NYSE:WMT) is preparing to roll out a revamped portion of its website, dedicated to home goods and furnishings. The experience will officially go live within the next few weeks, under the Home category, offering a preview of Walmart's larger e-commerce site design, scheduled for later this year.

Toys "R" Us plans to close another 200 stores and lay off a significant portion of its corporate staff following a disappointing holiday sales season, WSJ reports. The latest wave - which follows 180 closures announced in January - would cut nearly in half the number of U.S. stores it had before its bankruptcy filing. Toymakers like JAKKS Pacific (NASDAQ:JAKK), Mattel (NASDAQ:MAT) and Hasbro (NASDAQ:HAS) are watching.

Amazon shares hit a new all-time high on Wednesday, surpassing $1,500 for the first time, with the e-commerce giant building more support from Wall Street after this week's lackluster earnings from rival Walmart (WMT). The stock's tear - it's up about 73% over the past year - leaves Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) deadlocked with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) as the third-largest American public company.

Chipmaker drama... Qualcomm has increased its takeover bid for NXP Semiconductors (NASDAQ:NXPI), defying Broadcom's (NASDAQ:AVGO) demand that it not do so. In retaliation, the latter shaved $3 per share off its hostile takeover bid for Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), reducing it to $79 a share, but said it would rise again if Qualcomm failed to complete its purchase of NXP. The change has "made an inadequate offer even worse," Qualcomm said in response.

Twitter will no longer allow people to post, retweet or like identical messages from multiple accounts, cracking down on a tactic that some have allegedly used to make tweets or topics go viral. "These changes... ensure we stay ahead of malicious activity targeting the crucial conversations taking place on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) - including elections in the U.S. and around the world," according to the company's policy team.

"It's not gonna be talk like it has been in the past. It's been going on too long. Too many instances. And we're going to get it done," President Trump told relatives of victims from last week's Florida high school massacre. The discussion at the White House also saw Trump pledge to be "very strong on background checks," put a "very strong emphasis" on mental health and possibly eliminate gun-free zones by "arming teachers." Related tickers: AOBCRGROLNSPWHVSTO

Wednesday's Key Earnings
Cheniere Energy (NYSEMKT:LNG-2.2% amid weaker earnings.
Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE:ETP+4.2% AH on a big Q4 beat.
Pandora (NYSE:P+6.4% AH after a rise in subscription revenue.
Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU-17.2% AH following a weak sales forecast.
Southern Co. (NYSE:SO-1.3% posting mixed guidance for 2018.

Today's Markets 
In Asia, Japan -1.1%. Hong Kong -1.5%. China +2.2%. India -0.1%.
In Europe, at midday, London -1%. Paris -0.5%. Frankfurt -0.8%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow +0.1%. S&P +0.3%. Nasdaq +0.1%. Crude -0.4% to $61.44. Gold -0.6% to $1324.20. Bitcoin -2% to $10251.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 2.93%

Today's Economic Calendar
8:30 Initial Jobless Claims
9:45 Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index
10:00 Leading Indicators
10:30 EIA Natural Gas Inventory
11:00 EIA Petroleum Inventories
11:00 Kansas City Fed Mfg Survey
1:00 PM Results of $29B, 7-Year Note Auction
4:30 PM Money Supply
4:30 PM Fed Balance Sheet

Known to most as Uranium Pinto Beans, Jason has more than 15 years under his belt of trading stocks, options and currencies. His expertise primarily lies in chart analysis, and he has a strong eye for undervalued stock. Because he’s got the ability to identify great risk/reward trades he usually enjoys taking the path less traveled and reaping the benefits from the adventure.

He is a co-founder of Option Millionaires, and he is best known for his weekly webinars with Scott, as well as his high level training webinars and charts found in the forums.

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