It was a big day for stocks as they ripped higher through much of the trading day.
The major indexes had opened modestly strong, and then plunged into the red before roaring back, although some of the gains faded in the final hour of the session.
Crude oil similarly made a comeback, rallying 3%, even as prices remain near the lowest levels in a decade.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 16,373.95, +222.54, (1.38%)
- S&P 500: 1,921.73, +31.45, (1.66%)
- Nasdaq: 4,614.63, +88.57, (1.96%)
- WTI crude oil: $31.17, (2.28%)
And now, Thursday’s top stories:
- While stocks were ripping higher, New York Stock Exchange floor veteran Art Cashin gave clients the sobering factoid that the stock market just did something it’s only done three times in the last century. It’s that on Wednesday, stocks entered a correction — a 10% drop from recent highs — for the second time in the last six months, which is a rather short span. The last three times this happened were in 1929, 2000, and 2008. If those years look familiar, it’s because there were big market crashes during all three.
- As crude oil prices were crashing, Warren Buffett continued to pile onto his stake in Phillips 66, the energy company based in Texas. Daily regulatory filings dating back to January 6 show that the Berkshire Hathaway CEO has bought over 5 million shares and increased his stake to $5 billion. Shares are up 4% since the end of August 2015, when Buffett first disclosed a 10% stake in the company.
If the recent oil-price drop was what scared any investors out there into selling stocks last week, Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Sløk is here to calm nerves. In a client note, Sløk contended that oil prices cannot really fall much further from here (as we noted on Monday, oil cannot cost $0), and, the amount of investment into oil will not fall to 0% of capital spending in the economy. He wrote, “the bottom line is that the US stock market is overly worried about a risk that the consensus doesn’t expect (a hard landing in China) and the stock market mistakenly believes that lower energy prices is bad news for the economy.”
Deutsche BankIt probably won’t get much worse.
- And if things really do get worse for the energy sector, one strategist believes Washington would have to extend a bailout. Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Horizon Investments, wrote to clients that the “chances of some type of Washington assistance will soon rise to 50% or better”, repeating the kind of help the big banks got amid the credit crisis. Valliere thinks the bailout would include loan guarantees and bankruptcy protection, and Democrats would insist that the package helps vulnerable workers.
- Credit Suisse analysts dropped a bombshell note suggesting that Chinese corporates are working very hard to circumvent government restrictions on selling the yuan. They say that with Hong Kong’s exports and imports suddenly surging, they are “inclined to believe that a large portion of the recent external trade improvement came from trade fabrication instead of strengthened demand.” The latest data showed that China’s exports shrank 1.4% year-on-year in December, much less than the expectation for 8%. And for the analysts, this overstates what actually happened.
- JP Morgan kicked off bank-earnings season with a beat on earnings and revenues, leaving no excuses for everyone else. The bank reported adjusted earnings per share of $1.32 on revenue of $23.7 billion, with CEO Jamie Dimon describing it as a “good quarter“. Investment-banking, trading, and fixed-income revenues all came in better than forecast.
We got more information about Uber on Thursday. Or at least, more information about what Morgan Stanley clients are being told about Uber and amazingly, these are sort of not the same thing. As Bloomberg’s Julie Verhage reported, the 260-page document Morgan Stanley prepared for its private wealth clients who are being offered a chance to invest in the startup for a minimum of $250,000 include no financials. You read that right: no financials. As our Alyson Shontell broke down, the offer docs appear to highlight several major risks facing the company. These include increased competition and a warning that a public debut may not occur for some time. Uber also conceded that its drivers could be a problem if they actually become employees.
In related Uber commentary, Izabella Kaminska at the Financial Times on Wednesday wrote about what seems to her like an inevitability that Uber drivers will eventually organise because if you screw your workers for long enough — which is effectively the case Kaminska argues — they eventually wise up. Business Insider’s Matt Rosoff also contended that an improving economy could be a problem for the company, which is part of the same basic argument. Because the idea is that if Uber has been built on the back of independent contractors who had few alternatives for similarly-paying work, then the company had all the leverage. But any shift in this labour market dynamic — readers of BI: Markets are by this point familiar with the idea of “full employment” — would change just about everything for the company’s business model, even if hailing a ride from your iPhone is an amazing convenience.
- In economic data, initial jobless claims unexpectedly rose by 7,000 to 284,000 last week. Pantheon Macroeconomics’ Ian Shepherdson made the point to clients that the holiday season is volatile, because sometimes the data cannot keep up with the pace of hiring and firing in seasonal temp jobs.
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