Window dressing? Hardly. The last few days of the quarter continue to see mixed trading, which included a middling Wednesday despite a big 2.4% bump in crude oil. The S&P 500 Index improved by 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.4%, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average went back to its losing ways, sliding 0.2%.
Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) is burying most other headlines with its big quarterly miss and subsequent 20%-drop. However, on the non-earnings front, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), and Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc (NYSE:VRX) are proving noteworthy in their own right.
Here’s what you need to know for Thursday:
Apple Inc. (AAPL)
Despite the much-ballyhooed growth of Apple’s Services division, which includes the App Store, Android’s application universe has pulled ahead of AAPL in one metric for the first time ever.
According to a report out by App Annie, Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android operating system users are projected to spend $41 billion across all apps and subscriptions this year, edging out a $40 billion estimate for Apple. That would be a big swing from 2016, in which the App Store outdid Android $34 billion-$27 billion.
There are caveats, of course: Android operates across several fragmented markets, with more than one application store depending on which type of device you’re running. Moreover, App Annie notes that there are about five Android-powered devices in use for every one iOS device, so the outspend shouldn’t be that surprising.
This was part of a larger five-year forecast report that sees worldwide gross consumer spend reaching more than $139 billion by 2021, with more than half of that coming from the Asia-Pacific region.
The report also comes amid a recent crackdown in Apple’s App Store, where the company is cleaning up any apps that refer to themselves as “free” in the name. According to a VentureBeat report, Apple provides the following error screen if you submit an app for review that include “free” somewhere in the title:
“Your app’s name, icons, screenshots, or previews to be displayed on the App Store include references to your app’s price. … Please remove any references to your app’s price from your app’s name, including any references to your app being free or discounted.”
AAPL shares are up marginally Thursday, and could set fresh all-time highs yet again today.
COP shares are making a big move in Thursday’s early trading amid news that it’s selling its stake in Canadian oil sands project as part of other asset sales to help shore up the balance sheet and return more cash to shareholders.
The company is selling both this project and natural gas assets for $13.3 billion to Cenovus Energy Inc. (USA) (NYSE:CVE), a Canadian producer.
ConocoPhillips will be unloading its 50% share in the Forest Creek Christina Lake oil sands partnership, which it co-owns with Cenovus. The project produced 70,000 barrels of oil per day in 2016.
COP will also be ditching assets in Canadian’s Deep Basin, where it has been producing natural gas.
The payoff for shareholders? ConocoPhillips won’t just pay down debt, but it will also double its stock buyback program to $6 billion. The company is trying to make amends to shareholders after cutting the dividend by two-thirds in 2016 amid liquidity issues forced by the slide in oil prices. Also, the company could receive contingent payments based on Canadian crude oil prices reaching a certain threshold.
COP stock surged more than 7% in Thursday’s morning trade.
Valeant Pharmaceuticals Intl Inc (VRX)
Lastly, VRX shares are up more than 1% on Thursday, likely having nothing to do with an apology from activist investor Bill Ackman.
But Wall Street will likely sop up the news anyway.
In a letter to shareholders in his Pershing Square Holdings hedge fund, Ackman wrote:
“Clearly, our investment in Valeant was a huge mistake. The highly acquisitive nature of Valeant’s business required flawless capital allocation and operational execution, and therefore, a larger than normal degree of reliance on management. In retrospect, we misjudged the prior management team and this contributed to our loss. We deeply regret this mistake, which has cost all of us a tremendous amount, and which has damaged the record of success of our firm.”
Ackman recorded some $4 billion in losses over the course of several years of investment (and doubling down on those investments) in the scandal-plagued pharmaceutical company. He finally exited his stake — which grew as large as 10% — earlier this month.