Wednesday Morning Reads
- Righting the Economy
- Record Employment Growth
- Google Sidelines Second Artificial Intelligence Researcher
- Casualty of Chocolate War Is Poor West African Farmers
- Cultured Fish
- Mercedes Joins Tesla
- Netflix Forecasts An End to Borrowing Binge
- 10 Investing Lessons from 2020
- So You Turned $300k Into $3 Million. Now What?
- Is David Bullying Goliath
Be on the lookout for further information on his $1.9T stimulus plan. On Tuesday, Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen endorsed higher aid spending, urging lawmakers to "act big" and to look at the feasibility of issuing longer-term debt, including a 50-year bond. The funding would expand the current vaccine rollout, improve testing and treatment, and provide more economic aid to Americans, though many Republicans have grown alarmed over the price tag of the bill.
Details may also be revealed on ways to combat climate change as Biden rejoins the Paris climate accord. Clean energy and infrastructure are big priorities for the incoming administration and investors will be eyeing what policies may prompt changes to their portfolios. Those include electric vehicles, battery storage, chips used in clean energy, hydrogen fuel cells and upgrading buildings to make them more energy efficient.
Outlook: A new administration's first 100 days are typically analyzed for signs of a president's governing style and priorities. Even though Democrats control Congress, it's not an overpowering majority and Biden will likely tread carefully with Republicans with an eye on the 2022 midterm elections. Biden is also focused on immigration, where he'll propose a shortened pathway to citizenship for the 11M undocumented migrants in the U.S, and is likely to continue with some hardline policies toward China. (14 comments)
Traders are still trying to figure out how the market will perform in the coming months and years after the election of Joe Biden sparked outsized rallies in everything from cyclical stocks to sustainable energy. That's on top of a massive surge seen since the coronavirus-induced selloff in March 2020, which pushed the "retail bros" into the market and was later fueled by vaccine optimism and gigantic stimulus. Stock futures are again in the green this morning, boosted by Netflix (NFLX), which soared 12% AH on strong subscriber growth and possible share buybacks (see more below).
The bulls: Goldman says the market is in the early stages of a bull phase following an "explosive" valuations-led rebound in equities that tends to mark the start of a new cycle. While the risk of a correction in stocks is increasing, the firm recommends using any dips to buy more shares. "You do have elevated valuations, no question about it, but value is comparatively cheap and we don’t think a 6% GDP growth rate this year is fully priced in," added Ernesto Ramos of BMO Global Asset Management.
Middle ground: Bank of America cautioned that stocks are already trading as if the vaccine rollout and economic rebound will be smooth over the spring and summer. Given the limiting further upside, the bank kept its year-end target for the S&P 500 at 3,800, flat with current levels.
The bears: Not many are taking this position for 2021, but see possible hazards in the years ahead. Vanguard estimates equities over the next decade will produce returns that are roughly half of what their historical average has been, while GMO and Research Affiliates are even more bearish. LPL Financial also thinks traders are not pricing in the risk of a potential double-dip recession in 2022. "Historically, the average recession has lasted about one year, which suggests perhaps more time may have been needed for the economy to properly reset."
Some statistics: The S&P 500 has gained about 13% since Election Day 2020, marking the best post-election market performance for a new president in modern history, according to CFRA Research. Other performances? From Election Day to Election Day, the S&P 500 rose 57% under President Trump, and climbed 53% and then another 52% under President Obama.
After nearly a decade of borrowing $15B to fund original content, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) on Tuesday said it planned to be cash flow positive after 2021 and would no longer need to tap debt markets to fund its programming. Netflix also said it will consider share buybacks, a practice it hasn't done since 2011, which was the last time the company was cash flow positive. The announcements came as part of Netflix's earnings announcement, which saw shares surge 12% AH as the streamer surpassed 200M global subscribers for the first time (it topped 100M subs in 2017).
On the other side of the screen, Disney (NYSE:DIS) temporarily halted its dividend last year following calls from Dan Loeb to permanently end the $3B annual shareholder payment. The activist investor urged Disney to plunge that cash into original content, as it centers its operations around streaming, with plans to roll out dozens of Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar movies. Disney+ has gained an explosive 86M subscribers within a year and now expects 230M-260M on its flagship streaming service by 2024.
Comments: "It's super impressive what Disney has done," Netflix co-CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings said during yesterday's earnings call. "It's incredible execution for an incumbent to pivot to take on the insurgent. It shows members are willing and interested to pay for more content because they're hungry for great stories. And Disney does have great stories."
Go deeper: There are more earnings on the radar this morning, with results from Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), while Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB) and Bank of New York Mellon (NYSE:BNY) continue the parade for banks. (29 comments)
Investors rushed to offload Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) shares back in October after China began an investigation into alleged antitrust practices at the e-commerce colossus. Local regulators also pulled the listing of Ant Group, set to be the world's biggest IPO, in which Alibaba owns a one-third stake. The disappearance of company leader Jack Ma, one of the most powerful businessmen in the world, also didn't help sentiment, especially after he found himself at odds with the Chinese government by criticizing state-owned banks.
While Ma hasn't made any public appearances since Oct. 24, he addressed teachers last night in an online ceremony of the annual Rural Teacher Initiative. Wearing a navy pullover, Ma spoke from a room with grey walls, a large painting and floral arrangements. The 50-second video was enough to send shares in the e-commerce giant surging, with Alibaba up 8% in premarket trade.
Quote: "Jack Ma's reappearance has given investors peace of mind after a lot of rumors, allowing them to pile into the stock which had been a laggard in the market," said Steven Leung, sales director at brokerage UOB Kay Hian.
Go deeper: While Ma has stepped down from corporate positions and earnings calls at Alibaba, he retains significant influence over the company and promotes it at business and political events. The billionaire, who commands a cult-like reverence in China, also continues to mentor management talent in the "Alibaba Partnership," a 35-member group of company managers. (45 comments)
The first key test for NASA's Space Launch System didn't go as planned over the weekend and the space agency is now debating what to do. SLS, about 10 years in development and billions of dollars over budget, is crucial to plans to send people to the surface of the Moon by 2024 (Artemis program) and for NASA's deep space ambitions and beyond. Many publicly traded companies are involved in SLS, including a booster built by Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC), RS-25 engines made by Aerojet Rocketdyne (NYSE:AJRD) and core/upper stages and avionics manufactured by Boeing (NYSE:BA). SLS also intends to carry astronauts inside an Orion capsule built by Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT).
What happened? Engines were supposed to remain ignited for eight minutes, but instead shut down after slightly more than a minute, and well short of the four minutes program officials had said would be the minimum time needed to stay on track for a first launch in November. Just before the rocket shut down, a mission controller said there was a major component failure with the fourth engine, but NASA is still looking into the root cause of the issue.
Quote: "We don't know what we don't know," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said at a presser. "It's not everything we hoped it would be."
Outlook: The problem could be relatively easy to solve if it's a component issue (meaning a possible SLS flight by the end of the year), but if it's a bigger structural issue, it could be a potentially major setback to NASA's deep space goals. Critics have long argued against the rocket's shuttle-era core technologies - which have launch costs of $1B or more per mission - in favor of newer commercial alternatives like SpaceX's (SPACE) Falcon Heavy and United Launch Alliance's legacy Delta IV Heavy.
What else is happening...
A Biden presidency could make these stocks attractive - Kiplinger.
Court strikes down Trump EPA rollback on power plant restrictions.
J.P. Morgan fights 'FANG fatigue' with rested internet picks.
In Asia, Japan -0.4%. Hong Kong +1.1%. China +0.5%. India +0.8%.
In Europe, at midday, London +0.1%. Paris +0.5%. Frankfurt +0.6%.
Futures at 6:20, Dow +0.3%. S&P +1.2%. Nasdaq +0.9%. Crude +1.3% to $53.64. Gold +0.7% at $1853.30. Bitcoin -6.8% to $34554.
Ten-year Treasury Yield +1 bps to 1.10%
Today's Economic Calendar