Stocks tumbled on Wednesday while oil broke to a new multi-year low.
Brent crude oil, the international benchmark fell to a more than 10-year low while West Texas Intermediate crude was closing in on a roughly 7-year low, settling below $34 a barrel.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 16,906.5, -252.2, (-1.4%)
- S&P 500: 1,990.3, -26.5, (-1.3%)
- Nasdaq: 4,835.8, -56.7, (-1.2%)
- WTI crude oil: $33.97, -5.5%
And now, the top stories on Wednesday:
- The minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December 15-16 meeting were release this afternoon, revealing, that for at least some members of the Fed December’s rate increase was a “close call.” The Fed raised its benchmark interest rate target 0.25% on December 16, the first increase in over nine years. The minutes also indicated that a number of Fed officials are considered about inflation, which has persistently run below the Fed’s target.
- In related Fed news, Stanley Fischer, vice chair of the Fed and considered Chair Janet Yellen’s closest ally at the Fed said in an interview on CNBC early Wednesday that four rate increases from the Fed this year would be reasonable. This would basically put the Fed on rate increases at each of its meetings that are followed by a press conference, which take place in March, June, September, and December. The minutes, we’d note, stressed the standard Fed line that rate increases could happen faster or slower than markets anticipate, and so the broad point there is that the Fed doesn’t want to be boxed in. But a steady, consistent, largely predictable four rate-hike-year from the Fed seems more or less like the core expectation right now.
- In less related Fed news, Richard Fisher, formerly the president of the Dallas Fed, was more — ahem — unreserved in an appearance on CNBC on Tuesday, saying that the Fed “front-loaded” its reaction to the financial crisis and now no longer has really effective ways to aid markets. As Fisher said, “The Federal Reserve is a giant weapon that has no ammunition left. What I do worry about is: It was the Fed, the Fed, the Fed, the Fed for half of my tenure there, which is a decade. Everybody was looking for the Fed to float all boats. In my opinion, they got lazy.”
- We’re getting closer to the week’s biggest data release — the December jobs report due out on Friday — and in advance of this the latest private payroll figures from ADP showed payrolls grew by 257,000 in December, more than the 198,000 that was expected. A number of economists, however, note time and again that this report has no real predictive value ahead of Friday’s government number, which is expected to show job gains totaled 200,000 in December.
- The service sector of the US economy continues to chug along, with the latest services PMI reading from Markit Economics coming in at 54.3, better than the 54 expected by economists and the flash reading reported late last month, though this was an 11-month low for the measure.
- Yahoo is still a company that people have really strong ideas for. Activist hedge fund Starboard Value sent yet another letter to the board of the company calling for “significant changes” since convincing the company to abandon its long-held plan to spin-off its Alibaba holding in a tax-free transaction wasn’t enough. Starboard owns about 0.75% of the company. Yahoo told Business Insider it is in the middle of a “multiyear transformation,” but so we’ll see what happens. Eric Jackson, perhaps the most prominent investor making noise about what the company should do at this point, told Linette Lopez that the company’s board, “has failed its fiduciary responsibilities.” So there’s that. Yahoo shares lost about 0.5% on Wednesday, closing at around $32.
- Netflix, meanwhile, is taking over the world and shares of the streaming video company rose more than 9% on Wednesday after it announced almost every country in the world except China can stream Netflix video.
- Chipotle, meanwhile, is doing less well. The fast-casual Mexican food chain said that same-store sales fell 30% in December as reports regarding an E. coli tied to several of the company’s restaurants and a norovirus outbreak tied to a location in Boston weighed on sales. In the fourth quarter same-store sales are expected to fall 14.6% and earnings per share will now come in well below forecasts. And because things actually can get worse after several months of reports about customers getting sick after eating at your restaurant, Chipotle disclosed that it was subpoenaed in California over its handling of an outbreak of norovirus at a location in Simi Valley back in August 2015.
- Apple broke $100 a share for the first time since August. The world’s biggest company is now down about 20% in the last six months. Jay Yarow thinks it is going to be a tough year for the company in 2016. Among major issues potentially upcoming: iPhone sales going negative year-over-year, people completely giving up on Apple Watch, the company’s massive cash pile continuing to sit idly.
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