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Warren Buffett to step down from Kraft Heinz board in April

yesterday

Warren Buffett, the 87-year-old chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. , is retiring from Kraft Heinz Co.'s board following the end of his term in April, according to the food company Friday. "Mr. Buffett decided to retire from the board as he decreases his travel commitments," said Kraft Heinz in a statement. The company's board plans to nominate Alexandre Van Damme to stand for election at the 2018 Annual Meeting on April 23 to replace Buffett. Shares of Kraft Heinz fell 1.5% after hours.

The Nasdaq now stands just about 2.2% from its January record after this month's tumble

yesterday

The Nasdaq Composite Index rallied on Friday, capping a curious week for the technology laden index that places it a mere 2.2% from its all-time high set on Jan. 26. The Nasdaq Composite , ended the session up 127 points, or 1.8%, at 7,337, putting it 168 points or 2.2% shy of its record at 7,505.77. That represents a roughly 8.3% gain over 10 trading sessions for the benchmark, which is viewed as a proxy for risk appetite on Wall Street, since it tumbled into correction territory on Feb. 8, along with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 index . A correction is typically defined as a drop of at least 10% from a recent drop. The Dow and S&P 500 also were recovering sharply, but the Nasdaq has been outperforming both of its peers, even after marking a four-day losing stretch on Thursday--its longest skid since Nov. 4, 2016.

The S&P 500 just breached a key line in the sand for technical traders

yesterday

The S&P 500 index on Friday broke above a level that represents a retracement of about 68% of its recent market downturn put in earlier this month. The so-called Fibonacci retracement level between 2,742 and 2,744, is viewed as a level that has proved elusive for the broad-market benchmark to overcome since entering correction territory, described as a decline of at least 10% from a recent peak, on Feb 8, along with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Composite Index . The Fibonacci ratio, made famous by a 13th-century mathematician named Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa, is based on a number sequence in which the sum of two adjacent numbers forms the next higher number. The calculation is viewed by market technicians as a significant component for price discovery of an asset. The S&P 500 closed up 1.6% at around 2,747, well above that technical line.

Stock rally turns indexes positive for week as inflation concerns wane

yesterday

U.S. stocks closed sharply higher on Friday, with major indexes ending up more than 1% as investors grew less concerned over the prospect of the Federal Reserve becoming more aggressive in raising interest rates in order to combat inflation. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.4%, or 349 points, to 25,312. The S&P 500 added 43 points, or 1.6%, to 2,747. The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 127 points, or 1.8%, to 7,337. Both the Dow and the S&P posted their second straight daily gain, while the Nasdaq snapped a four-day losing streak. All three posted a second straight weekly advance; the Dow rose 0.4% over the week while the S&P added 0.6% and the Nasdaq rose 1.4%. Recent trading has been driven by concerns that inflation could be returning to the market, and that the Federal Reserve may have to become more aggressive to combat such a scenario. In its semiannual monetary policy report to Congress, the Fed signaled that it saw broad improvement in the U.S. economy, and while it pointed to a pickup in inflation toward the end of last year, it didn't suggest that a rise in prices warranted more aggressive policy action. That helped support equity prices in afternoon trading. The day's gains were broad, with all 11 primary S&P 500 sectors ending higher on the day. Technology shares were among the biggest percentage gainers, up 2.2%, while energy rose 2.2%, supported by a 1.2% increase in the price of crude oil. In company news, HP Inc. rose 3.5% after stronger-than-expected results, while Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. also rallied in the wake of its results. The stock closed 10.5% higher.

Secret Service arrests driver after car strikes barrier near White House

yesterday

The U.S. Secret Service said Friday it apprehended a female driver after a vehicle struck a security barrier near the White House. The vehicle didn't breach the barrier of the White House complex, the Secret Service said on Twitter.

Dropbox officially files for initial public offering

yesterday

Dropbox Inc. publicly filed for an initial public offering Friday, setting the stage for a long-awaited debut of a Silicon Valley startup that was valued at $10 billion in private investment four years ago. The cloud-based online storage network estimated that it would seek to raise $500 million in the offering, though that figure is typically a placeholder that will be updated in later filings. The company, which was founded in 2007, revealed growing revenue and shrinking losses in the filing. Revenue rose from $603.8 million to $844.8 million to $1.1 billion in the last three calendar years, while losses fell from $325.9 million to $210.2 million to $111.7 million in the same time period. Dropbox has raised more than $600 million in private funding, and was valued at $10 billion in its last round in January 2014, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company plans to list on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol DBX, and Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are listed as lead underwriters among 12 banks named.

Trump says U.S. could join TPP under better terms

yesterday

President Donald Trump said the U.S. could join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but under terms that are better for the nation. Speaking at a news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Trump said "there's a possibility we would go in," but "they would be offering us a much better deal." Nearly half of the Senate's 51 Republicans have urged Trump to revive talks with other countries on the trade pact, which Trump rejected last year.

Nordstrom shares up after new reports it will go private

yesterday

Nordstrom Inc. shares are up 4.6% in Friday trading after a Reuters report that the luxury retailer is finalizing plans to go private. The Nordstrom family has met with investment banks and could submit the offer next month. Nordstrom suspended previous talks to go private after talks for a $10 billion deal with private-equity firm Leonard Green & Partners faltered. Nordstrom shares are up 19.6% for the past year while the S&P 500 index is up 15.4% for the last 12 months.

Oil ends higher, holds gains after weekly rig count

yesterday

Oil futures ended higher Friday, maintaining gains after data showed the number of U.S. rigs rose by 1 this week. West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery rose 78 cents, or 1.2%, to end at $63.55 a barrel.

Gwyneth Paltrow, SoulCycle founder among investors in plus-size brand Universal Standard

yesterday

Universal Standard, a women's fashion brand that describes itself as "size-inclusive," said Friday that it has closed a $7 million round of Series A funding. The funding round was led by Imaginary Ventures with additional participation from actress and Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow, Elizabeth Cutler, co-founder of SoulCycle, and Blake Mycoskie, founder of the Toms brand of shoes, apparel and accessories. Universal Standard says it will use the money to extend its range to sizes 6 to 32. Currently, it offers sizes 10 to 28. The company also plans to make executive hires, build showrooms nationwide and grow into new categories. Universal Standard launched an eight-piece collection in fall 2016, and now offers workwear, coats, activewear, and more. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF is up 9.2% for the last three months while the S&P 500 index is up 5% for the period.

Gold closes lower for the session to post weekly loss of 1.7%

yesterday

Gold closed marginally lower Friday, logging it biggest weekly drop this year as the U.S. dollar recovered from its earlier weakness. April gold fell $2.40 or 0.2%, to settle at $1,330.30 an ounce, falling 1.7% for the week, while March silver lost 10 cents, or 0.6%, to $16.48 an ounce, posting a weekly decline of 0.8%. The dollar stabilized on a belief that investors will continue to bid up the buck in anticipation of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates which tend to result in the currency strengthening. The ICE U.S. Dollar Index edged up 0.1%.

Bank of America sees cryptocurrencies as one of many significant and increasing' competitors

yesterday

The financial services industry is "highly competitive" and subject to stark disruptions, including from cryptocurrencies, Bank of America said in its annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday. The bank referred to cryptocurrencies as "other market participants who engage in business or offer products in areas we deem speculative or risky." It was the first time the bank had acknowledged crypto as a risk factor. Shares are up more than 29% over the past 12 months, nearly double the return for the S&P 500 .

Fed could start to look at new policy frameworks later this year, Mester says

yesterday

It may be appropriate later this year for the Federal Reserve to start to re-think its policy framework, though "the bar should be high" for any changes, said Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, on Friday. In 2012, the Fed set out a 2% annual inflation target. But some officials are pushing for a change, in part because inflation has remained stubbornly below that target since the end of the financial crisis and also because of the danger interest rates may have to go back to zero during the next recession. In her remarks to the Chicago Booth monetary policy conference, Mester did not signal that she supported any of the leading options on the table, such as raising the inflation target or setting at range or moving to target nominal GDP. Under current practice, it seems unlikely any changes in the framework would be announced before the start of 2019.

Fed could start to look at new policy frameworks later this year, Mester says

yesterday

It may be appropriate later this year for the Federal Reserve to start to re-think its policy framework, though "the bar should be high" for any changes, said Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester, on Friday. In 2012, the Fed set out a 2% annual inflation target. But some officials are pushing for a change, in part because inflation has remained stubbornly below that target since the end of the financial crisis and also because of the danger interest rates may have to go back to zero during the next recession. In her remarks to the Chicago Booth monetary policy conference, Mester did not signal that she supported any of the leading options on the table, such as raising the inflation target or setting at range or moving to target nominal GDP. Under current practice, it seems unlikely any changes in the framework would be announced before the start of 2019.

Gundlach says bitcoin is 'poster child' for stock market's mood

yesterday

Jeffrey Gundlach, CEO of DoubleLine Capital, said the swings in bitcoin were the "poster child" for the stock market's mood, in an interview with CNBC. He appeared to imply that a correlation between equities and the nascent digital asset was beginning to emerge. He noted that the crash in bitcoin in January "presaged the volatility in the stock market." Bitcoin nearly breached the $20,000 level in December, before plummeting and bottoming out above $6,000 in early February. While, the S&P 500 fell more than 10%, officially entering a correction, early this month. Soon after, both bitcoin and stocks appeared to recover at a similar time, said Gundlach.

Fed balance sheet should end up higher than $2.9 trillion, Dudley says

yesterday

The Federal Reserve should stop shrinking its balance sheet when it gets down to a level somewhere higher than $2.9 trillion, said New York Fed President William Dudley on Friday. During comments at a Chicago Booth monetary policy forum, Dudley said he thought the Fed needed a large balance sheet to set a floor for short-term interest rates. The Fed has started to slowly shrink its balance sheet from $4.5 trillion but has not yet specified at what level it would stop. Dudley may not have a say in the final decision as he is set to retire later this year. But the New York Fed's views carry a lot of weight at the central bank as they are in charge of the market implementation of central bank policy.

Trump says schools should be protected like banks, government buildings

yesterday

President Donald Trump said Friday that it's time to make schools harder targets for potential mass shootings. "Why do we protect our banks and government buildings, but not our schools?" Trump said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Trump said making schools what he called gun-free zones puts students in more danger and reiterated a call for "gun-adept" teachers to carry firearms.

Fed says it is still planning to raise interest rates gradually

yesterday

The Federal Reserve is planning further gradual interest-rate increases but still plans to keep the federal funds rates on the low side, the central bank said Friday in its monetary policy report to Congress. The report, which Chairman Jerome Powell will testify about next week, couched monetary policy in very similar terms to the statement the Fed gave at its last policy meeting in January. The Fed didn't seem alarmed about recent pay developments, saying the "growth of labor compensation has been moderate." On the stock market, the Fed said valuation pressures remain elevated and that there are signs nonbank financial leverage has been building, including to hedge funds that invest in stocks.

Quantitative easing will help the next time interest rates fall to zero, Dudley says

yesterday

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Asset purchases, or quantitative easing, by the Federal Reserve is an effective stimulus tool if the economy falters and interest rates go back to zero, said New York Fed President William Dudley, on Friday. In remarks to the Chicago Booth monetary policy forum, Dudley said he disagreed with one of the conclusions of a paper by prominent Wall Street economists that argued quantitative easing may only have a modest impact to help get the economy out of a downturn. Dudley said asset purchases work best when they are open-ended. He also said the Fed should be able to buy mortgage-backed securities in the next crisis, despite calls by some in Congress and on Wall Street to curb such purchases.

Cinemark shares jump 5% after profit blows past estimates

yesterday

Shares of Cinemark Holdings Inc. surged 5% Friday, after the company blew past profit estimates for the fourth quarter and raised its dividend. Plano, Tx.-based Cinemark said it had net income of $95.1 million, or 82 cents a share, in the quarter, up from $77.0 million, or 66 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. revenue rose to $750.0 million from $700.9 million. The FactSet consensus was for EPS of 48 cents and revenue of $746.0 million. Admissions revenue rose 4.5%, while concession revenues rose 10%. Chief Executive Mark Zoradi said the earnings beat came even as the U.S. box office was weaker than in the year-earlier period. The company is now raising its dividend by 10% to $1.28 a share on an annualized basis. The fourth-quarter dividend of 32 cents will be paid on March 22 to shareholders of record as of March 8. MKM analysts said the earnings were better than they were expecting. "Cinemark once again demonstrated its consistent ability to outpace the industry on an absolute growth basis and on a per screen basis. These datapoints further our view of Cinemark as the best in class operator," said analyst Eric Handler, who has a buy rating on the stock. Shares have fallen 3.3% in the last 12 months, while the S&P 500 has gained 15%.

Fitch downgrades Coca-Cola's rating to A vs. A-plus with a stable outlook

yesterday

Fitch Ratings downgraded Coca-Cola Co.'s rating to A from A-plus on Friday, after the company unveiled long-term financial targets that signaled that additional debt reduction is not a company priority. Coca-Cola is targeting a net debt leverage ratio of 2.0 times to 2.5 times, using $7 billion of offshore cash to pay down debt, a $4.6 billion tax on accumulated foreign earnings, share repurchases of up to $1 billion in 2018 and a long-term dividend pay-out ratio of 75%. "The ratings downgrade reflects materially higher net leverage compared to Fitch's previous expectations," the agency said in a statement. Fitch also views the new targets as providing the company with the means to pursue bolt-on acquisitions to broaden its beverage portfolio, while continue to reward shareholders with dividends and share buybacks. Shares were up 0.5% Friday, and have gained 5% in the last 12 months, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average has gained 20% and the S&P 500 has gained 15%.

Western Digital stock jumps after Stifel resumes coverage with buy rating

yesterday

Shares of Western Digital Corp. are up 3.9% in Friday morning trading after analysts at Stifel resumed coverage with a buy rating and took an upbeat view on the role of hard disk drives going forward. The analysts, led by Kevin Cassidy, believe that "increased data generation will keep [hard disk drives] relevant" and that safety concerns surrounding new autonomous driving technologies will stir demand for "large capacity" drives. They're optimistic about the company's new microwave assisted magnetic recording (MAMR) drives and think that a joint venture with Toshiba "provides stability." The analysts also resumed coverage of Seagate Technology PLC with a hold rating. Western Digital shares are up 18% over the past 12 months, while Seagate shares are up 11% and the S&P 500 Index is up 15%.

Potbelly shares surge 7% as upbeat guidance offsets a revenue miss

yesterday

Shares of sandwich chain Potbelly Corp. soared 7% in early trade Friday, after upbeat guidance offset a revenue miss in the fourth quarter. Chicago-based Potbelly said it had a net loss of $7.3 million, or 29 cents a share, in the quarter, after net income of $2.0 million, or 8 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. The loss includes a $5.7 million tax charge and a $5.0 million impairment charge. Adjusted per-share earnings came to 8 cents, matching the FactSet consensus. Revenue rose 9.6% to $112.1 million, just below the FactSet consensus of $113.0 million. Same-store sales fell 2.4%, wider than the FactSet consensus for a decline of 1.8%. For 2018, the company said it expects same-store sales growth to be flat, and adjusted EPS to range from 37 cents to 39 cents. That's better than the FactSet consensus for same-store sales to fall 0.2% and EPS to come in at 36 cents. Shares have fallen 3.8% in the last 12 months, while the S&P 500 has gained 15%.

Altaba stock gains after MKM Partners predicts 'more aggressive action' on unlocking value for shareholders

yesterday

Shares of Altaba Inc. gained 0.9% in Friday morning trading after MKM Partners analyst Rob Sanderson raised his price target on shares to $112 from $76 ahead of the company's strategy call with investors that's set to take place next Tuesday. Altaba has a stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. . "We believe that management is highly focused on unlocking shareholder value," he wrote. "Now that details of tax reform are more conclusive, we expect the company will take more aggressive action." His price target increase reflects a "substantially lower tax rate assumption" and his recently increased target for Alibaba. Separately, analysts at J.P. Morgan raised their price target to $95 from $60. They wrote that Altaba "now trades at a ~26% discount to pre-tax NAV, tighter than the ~31% discount at the time of our initiation, but now wider than our estimated effective tax rate." Altaba shares are up 66% in the past 12 months, while the S&P 500 Index is up 15%.

Dow jumps 150 points as stock market tries to end choppy week on a high note

yesterday

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened higher on Friday as the stock benchmarks attempted to shake off concerns about rising bond yields and inflation to finish the week on an uptrend. The Dow was up about 150 points, or 0.6%, at 25,103, while the S&P 500 index was up 0.5% at 2,717. The Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.6% at 7,253. For the shortened-holiday week, the Dow and the S&P 500 were on pace for weekly drops of 0.2%, while the Nasdaq Composite, which booked its fourth daily decline in a row on Thursday, marking its longest skid since November of 2016, was still set for a weekly gain of about 0.3%. Looking ahead, markets were awaiting a release from a report on monetary policy at 11 a.m. Eastern from the Federal Reserve, which comes ahead of Jerome Powell's inaugural testimony before congress as Fed boss next week. In corporate news, Shares of Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc. soared after General Mills Inc. said it planned on buying the pet-products company in an $8 billion deal. Weekly moves for equities have been market by continued volatility as investors fret about rising borrowing costs and worries that resurgent inflation may prompt the Fed to hike interest rates at a quickened pace. On Wednesday, following minutes from the central bank's policy committee gathering in January, which suggested that rate hikes were on the horizon, the yield of the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to a fresh four-year peak at 2.956%, prompting a selloff in stocks. However bond yields, which move in the opposite direction of prices, have since moderated.

S&P downgrades General Mills to BBB vs. BBB-plus after $8 billion Blue Buffalo deal

yesterday

S&P Global Ratings downgraded General Mills Inc. to BBB from BBB-plus on Friday, after the company said it is acquiring Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc. for about $8.0 billion. The new rating is just two notches above speculative, or "junk" status. The rating agency said it expects General Mills to finance the deal with a combination of new debt, cash on hand and equity, raising its leverage to about 4.5 times from 3.2 times for the 12 months to Nov. 26, 2017. "The downgrade reflects our belief that General Mills' pro forma credit protection measures will deteriorate following this acquisition and will remain weaker than our prior expectations for several years after the close of the transaction," analyst Bea Chiem wrote in a report. S&P expects management to meet their pledge to restore credit measures by issuing equity and suspending its dividend. "We expect General Mills to be able to effectively integrate Blue Buffalo and continue to grow the brand and gain market share at food, drug, and mass retailers," said Chiem.

Redfin shares fall 7% after results, lower revenue guidance

yesterday

Shares of Redfin Corp. stumbled more than 7% late Thursday after the real-estate company reported a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss but guided for less revenue in the first quarter. Redfin said it lost $1.8 million, or 2 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, compared with a loss of $5.3 million, or $8.08 a share, in the fourth quarter of 2016. Revenue rose 43% to $95.8 million, compared with $66.8 million a year ago. Analysts polled by FactSet had expected a loss of 5 cents a share on sales of $92 million. The company said it expects revenue between $74.6 million and $78.4 million in the first quarter and a net loss between $38.7 million and $35.9 million. The analysts surveyed by FactSet expect revenue of $80 million in the first quarter.

GNC shares jump after credit maturity date extended

yesterday

GNC Holdings Inc. shares jumped 5% in Friday premarket trading after the company announced an extended maturity date of term loans to March 2021, a two-year extension. With this amendment, the health and wellness retailer will continue working with Harbin Pharmaceutical Group Holding Co. Ltd. on a previously announced $300 million strategic investment. GNC's revolving credit facility will be cancelled once the amended and restated term loan facility closes and GNC will enter into a new $100 million ABL Revolver. GNC shares are down more than 54% for the last year while the S&P 500 index is up 14.4% for the period.

Specialty chemicals company Albemarle raises quarterly dividend about 5% to 33.50 cents a share

yesterday

Specialty chemicals company Albemarle Corp. said Friday its board has approved an almost 5% hike in its quarterly dividend to 33.50 cents a share from 32 cents. The new dividend will be payable April 2 to shareholders of record as of March 15. Shares rose 1.2% premarket, and are up 22% in the last 12 months, while the S&P 500 has gained 14%.

LyondellBasell raises quarterly dividend 11% to $1.00 a share

yesterday

Chemicals company LyondellBasell Industries NV said Friday its board has approved an 11% increase in its quarterly dividend to $1.00 a share. The new dividend is payable March 12 to shareholders of record as of March 2. Shares were not yet active premarket, but have gained 19% in the last 12 months, while the S&P 500 has gained 14%.