Tuesday Morning Reads

Tuesday Morning Reads







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A greener world

Petaluma, California - a city of 61,000 residents and 15 square miles in size - has become the first city in the U.S. to permanently halt the construction of new gas stations. The legislation will also outlaw new pumps at existing stations and streamline the process for adding more EV infrastructure like electric charging bays and hydrogen fuel cell facilities. The new prohibition is part of Petaluma's plan to completely phase out carbon emissions by 2030, though other environmental groups (like CONGAS) are pushing for a ban on the entire Sonoma County, which includes Petaluma and eight other cities.

"The goal here is to move away from fossil fuels and to make it as easy as possible to do that," said D'Lynda Fischer, the city councilor who introduced the measure. "Right now, we have existing fossil fuel stations, and what we want them to do is add [electric vehicle] chargers and create another source of fueling people can use."

Bigger picture: There are an estimated 450,000 brownfield sites in the U.S., or areas where expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance. According to the EPA, approximately one-half of them are thought to be impacted by petroleum, much of it from leaking underground storage tanks at old gas stations. The sites "blight the surrounding neighborhoods, threaten human health and the environment and can contaminate groundwater."

Outlook: While the latest move is taking place at the grassroots level, there are other developments happening at the state level in California. Last year, the state banned the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035 and will require 75% of heavy trucks sold locally to be electric by that date. There are also plans to build an electric highway along the Pacific Coast. A host of policies are also being prepared at the federal level, like the Biden administration's $2T climate and infrastructure plan, which could boost renewables and other sustainable stocks. (96 comments)

Warming to plans on carbon pricing

After hitting a pandemic low in April, global emissions rebounded strongly and were 2%, or 60M tons, higher in December 2020 than they were in the same month a year earlier, according to the latest data from the International Energy Agency. This should serve a "stark warning" that not enough is being done to accelerate clean energy transitions worldwide, added Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. Major economies led the resurgence as a pick-up in economic activity pushed energy demand higher, while significant measures to boost clean energy were lacking.

Quote: "If governments don't move quickly with the right energy policies, this could put at risk the world’s historic opportunity to make 2019 the definitive peak in global emissions," Birol continued. "In March 2020, the IEA urged governments to put clean energy at the heart of their economic stimulus plans to ensure a sustainable recovery. But our numbers show we are returning to carbon-intensive business-as-usual."

It's easier said than done. The latest report card from the United Nations showed that 75 signatories to the Paris climate accord - responsible for a third of global emissions - "fell far short" of what is needed to meet the deal's goals. If those targets were implemented, their combined emissions would fall just 0.5% by 2030 (compared to 2010 levels), which is far lower than the 45% fall in global emissions needed to limit warming to 1.5C. No new commitments have yet been put forward by China, India and the U.S., though the latter is expected to do so before the Biden administration hosts a climate summit on April 22.

New economy? The American Petroleum Institute, one of the most powerful trade associations in Washington, is preparing to endorse setting a price on carbon emissions in what would "lead to the most economic paths to achieve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement." "API supports economy-wide carbon pricing as the primary government climate policy instrument to reduce CO2 emissions while helping keep energy affordable, instead of mandates or prescriptive regulatory action," according to a draft statement. A decade ago, API was one of the strongest opponents to a Congressional plan on carbon pricing, though it is now the latest of several to support a "market-based" approach following an announcement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in January. (4 comments)

Next moves?

Volatility may be making a comeback on Wall Street as stock index futures fell back overnight, down about 0.5%, following one of the best days since June. On Monday, the S&P 500 climbed 2.4%, the DJIA tacked on another 2%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped over 3% after shedding 4.9% last week. The 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield, which is keeping investors on edge, also slipped to a session low of 1.41% before drifting toward the flatline.

Cyclical sectors like energy and financials are also continuing to outperform the broader market due to optimism about vaccines and economic resurgence, though some are cautioning the rotation is overdone. "The value side of the equation - the 'go outside' trade - has really moved way too far and way too fast for where we are at this stage of the reopening," said Amanda Agati, who oversees $170B in assets at PNC Financial. "We've seen this massive sentiment shift, but at the end of the day, we really haven't seen the underlying fundamentals improve in a big way." She's putting her money in 2020's winners, like the stay-at-home trade, which includes Big Tech.

Keep on it: "Everyone's chasing their shadows and saying it's rates here, it's inflation there. But those just aren't real," added Mike Dowdall, a portfolio manager at BMO Global Asset Management. Monday was a "kind of a reckoning with the reality that the Fed's not moving anytime soon. It's really hard to paint a negative picture of this market."

Warning bells: SA contributor Mott Capital Management feels now is not the time to buy the dip, nor should the recent rally last or be trusted. "The rise in real yields has massively underperformed the rise in 10-year Treasury rates. That has resulted in breakeven inflation rates moving sharply higher, which has helped send the wrong message overall to the equity market. But as real yields begin to play catch-up to the nominal 10-year rate, it's likely to push those breakeven inflation rates lower, resulting in equity prices following lower, causing massive volatility."

Signs of reopening

All 270 Apple Stores (AAPL) in the United States are now open for the first time in nearly a year, though some still have restrictions, such as being appointment-only. Stores in Texas were the last to reopen following additional delays caused by an Arctic blast in February. That milestone, along with news that Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.ABRK.B) is still bullish on its 5.4% stake in the iPhone maker, sent shares of Apple up more than 5% on Monday for their biggest gain in more than four months.

Backdrop: On March 13, 2020, Apple closed all of its retail stores outside of China due to the spreading pandemic. Since then, Apple has opened and closed stores around the world based on local lockdown restrictions and spiking COVID-19 cases. The only Apple Stores that are still closed worldwide are about a dozen in Brazil and France (outlets in Mexico reopen today).

The opening of Apple stores is more an indicator of improving retail health than a financial tailwind for the company. In fact, the retail store closures didn't even hurt Apple's sales, with iPhone revenues smashing analyst estimates last quarter, driven by iPhone 12 strength.

Analyst notes: Last month, JPMorgan analyst William Yang said weak demand for Apple's iPhone 12 mini could lead to a Q2 production halt for the device. Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is now out with a new note predicting the iPhone 13 family will match 12 in the number of devices and sizes, which means a 13 mini will be on offer. He also said that all 2021 models will include a Lightning and a reduced notch area, while the higher-end 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max will have an upgraded ultra-wide camera and LiDAR. (32 comments)

Vaccine passports

On March 17, the European Commission is set to propose an EU-wide digital certificate that provides the proof of the status of COVID-19 vaccination, Reuters reports. With the "digital green pass," the 27-member bloc also expects to cooperate with international organizations to ensure that the system also works outside the region. The move is aimed at promoting safer travel within the region as well as abroad for work or tourism, according to Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Potential problems? Vaccine distrust is a persistent issue in Europe, with only 59% of people in Western Europe trusting the safety of vaccines compared to 79% worldwide, according to a Wellcome Global Monitor survey in 2018. Compound that with privacy issues, as well as security and patient rights. EU countries would also be free to set their own criteria for entry, but broadly open borders make that a difficult task.

Both messenger RNA-based COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech (PFEBNTX) and Moderna (MRNA) have received a regulatory nod in the EU along with the vector-based jab developed by AstraZeneca (AZN) in partnership with the University of Oxford. Meanwhile, a shot from Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) - the latest to receive FDA approval - is likely to undergo European regulatory review early this month.

Elsewhere in Europe: The U.K. has been debating a so-called COVID-19 vaccine passport, which would enable residents to get into bars and grocery stores in the future, according to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. "It's something that hasn’t been ruled out and it's under consideration, but of course you've got to make it workable," he told LBC Radio in February. Other British officials have pushed back on the possibility. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the country is exploring vaccine certificates for international travel, but a so-called vaccine passport was not something that would be required to access local services. (78 comments)

What else is happening...

Volvo (OTCPK:VOLAF) is the next automaker to go fully electric by 2030.

Vote of confidence... United (NASDAQ:UAL) buys 25 new Boeing (NYSE:BA) 737 MAX jets.

eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) will divest U.K. classifieds sites to complete Adevinta deal.

Walmart (NYSE:WMT) poaches two Goldman (NYSE:GS) bankers to build its fintech venture.

SEC says Exxon (NYSE:XOM), Citi (NYSE:C) must let investors vote on ESG issues.

Monday's Key Earnings

NIO (NYSE:NIO) -4.2% AH posting mixed Q4 results.
Novavax (NVAX) -4.3% despite plans for a vaccine as early as May.
Zoom Video (NASDAQ:ZM) +9.7% on robust guidance, WFH tailwinds.

Today's Markets

In Asia, Japan -0.9%. Hong Kong -1.2%. China -1.2%. India +0.9%.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.5%. Paris +0.4%. Frankfurt +0.3%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow -0.3%. S&P -0.5%. Nasdaq -0.5%. Crude -0.1% to $60.58. Gold +0.2% at $1726.10. Bitcoin +2% to $48755.
Ten-year Treasury Yield flat at 1.44%

Today's Economic Calendar

Auto Sales
8:55 Redbook Chain Store Sales
1:00 PM Fed's Brainard: Economic Outlook and Monetary Policy Outlook
2:00 PM Fed's Daly Speech

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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