Stocks fell on Thursday as Apple declined for the second straight day, the Japanese yen surprisingly rallied overnight, and Carl Icahn went on CNBC to express his concerns about the stock market during the afternoon.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 17,837, -204, (-1.1%)
- S&P 500: 2,072, -23, (-1.1%)
- Nasdaq: 4,799, -63, (-1.3%)
- WTI crude oil: $45.60, +0.6%
The US economy grew at a slower-than-expected rate to start the year, with the first estimate of Q1 GDP showing an annualized growth rate of 0.5%, missing expectations for a 0.7% expansion.
Personal consumption, which accounts for about two-thirds of GDP, was stronger than forecast, rising 1.9% to start the year while household investment was also strong. The weak spots in the economy were private investment, trade, and inventory growth.
Of course, this is just the first of a three-part revision to this quarter’s GDP data and given that 45% of the report is based on surveys or data that will be revised and 14% fo the report is inferred from historical trends, you can kind of see this however you’d like.
In a note to clients following the report, UBS economist Maury Harris noted that since 1980, real GDP growth in the first quarter of the year has been 0.8% lower than year’s other three quarters and since 2000 there’s been a 1.3% downward bias to Q1 GDP.
So, this revision is going to come up. At least according to history, which is, well, all we’ve got.
Elsewhere in the economy, the labour market continues to be rock solid with initial jobless claims totaling just 257,000 last week, beating forecasts and marking the 60th straight week initial filings for unemployment insurance were below 300,000.
The Bank of Japan disappointed markets overnight when it made no changes to its current monetary policy programs.
The BoJ will continue to buy 80 trillion yen worth of assets each year and left interest rates unchanged, sending the yen rallying to nearly 108 per dollar. This 3% move was the biggest one-day move since last August when concerns over the Chinese economy roiled global markets.
“The Bank of Japan’s decision to forgo additional easing today came as a major disappointment to markets and resulted in a sharp appreciation of the yen,” wrote Capital Economics’ Marcel Thieliant.
“Amid sluggish growth and moderating price pressures, we still think that more monetary stimulus will be announced before long, most likely in July but perhaps as soon as June.”
With the yen’s rally catching markets flat-footed, stocks fell and gold rallied.
Icahn, the activist hedge fund billionaire, made headlines a few years back when he bombastically declared buying the stock to be a “no brainer” on CNBC. Now, it appears, one must think harder about buying Apple shares; Icahn doesn’t want any piece of the company at all.
Icahn’s main concern for Apple was China, where its revenue fell 26% in the first quarter. China has been billed as the iPhone maker’s next big market.
“I got out because I’m worried about China … I hope to get back into [Apple] one day,” Icahn told CNBC in an interview Tuesday.
Also during the interview Icahn reiterated his concern about the US stock market in general, which he first voiced with a video called “Danger Ahead” released back in September.
Icahn is also still supporting Donald Trump for president and voiced his desire for the US government to both deal with reducing the deficit while engaging in fiscal stimulus to kickstart the economy.
This week has been all about tech earnings with Apple and Twitter disappointing while Facebook’s report on Wednesday crushed expectations.
The tech giant saw its shares gain more than 7% on Thursday following its blowout quarter.
Analysts at Jefferies wrote that the company’s results were, “another big beat driven by the soaring mobile ad business.”
Macquarie added that, “As we have said for years, as long as the users are there, FB will find ways to monetise. The company continues to excel at keeping users engaged while also improving ad formats, targeting and measurement for advertisers. On the engagement side, despite concerns, the key metrics proved very strong.”
The company also announced a mostly cosmetic change of a new Class C share class, which won’t hold any voting rights but retain full economic rights. Of course, this really doesn’t change anything: Mark Zuckerberg is still in full control of the company he founded at Harvard.
Warren Buffett begrudgingly created the Class B share back in 1996. (Disclosure: I own a little.)