It was a Rorschach test of sorts, in that investors read what they wanted into comments made by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell today in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Then President Donald Trump responded.
Powell said there is no “rulebook” for a trade war and promised that the Fed would “act as appropriate to sustain the expansion.”
Trump, dissatisfied with a lack of stimulative action, tweeted “the Fed did NOTHING,” and then followed that tweet with another, saying “Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing […] your companies HOME and making your products in the USA.”
The meaning and nature of the message wasn’t entirely clear, but investors saw the glass as half empty rather than half full. By the time the closing bell rang, the S&P 500 was down to the tune of 2.6%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.4%, while the NASDAQ Composite ended the day down 3.0%.
Bond prices advanced on Friday, partly as a result of investors seeking safety that stocks can’t offer, and partly because at least enough investors suspect another rate cut may be looming. While Powell said little on the matter, the market interpreted his wording and Trump’s follow-up as a clue that rates may be moving lower in the foreseeable future.
September’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting is a regularly scheduled opportunity to change the Fed Funds Rate.
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Presuming the trade war being fought between China and the United States in indeed escalating, all companies will be impacted. None may be as hard hit as auto makers like Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) and Ford Motor (NYSE:F), however. That’s because both still deliver large numbers of vehicles from the U.S. to China, and now face a reinstituted tariff of 25%. General Motors (NYSE:GM) is also a popular brand in China, but with much of its manufacturing for the market being done there, it’s able to circumvent the expensive import duties.
Still, GM shares were pressured all the same, as Trump also encouraged companies with manufacturing operations in China to relocate that production elsewhere.
VMware (NYSE:VMW) Chief Executive Officer Patrick Gelsinger described the cybersecurity market as “broken” Thursday evening, as a prelude to news that it would be simultaneously acquiring Carbon Black (NASDAQ:CBLK) and Pivotal Software (NYSE:PVTL). “The acquisitions announced today will advance our goal of offering more comprehensive and trusted cloud-agnostic solutions,” explained Gelsinger.
Shareholders aren’t quite as convinced the $4.8 billion VMware is laying out for the two companies is money well spent, however. VMW stock fell almost 10% on the news.
A long nightmare for Boeing (NYSE:BA) could be ending soon, according to reports from The Seattle Times. The newspaper’s website suggested Thursday evening that the beleaguered 737 MAX could be re-certified by the Federal Aviation Administration within the next few weeks. The plane was grounded in the United States, and elsewhere, after a couple of fatal crashes were linked to a safety system that caused confusion for pilots. The solution, however, is a relatively easy recoding of the software that operates the system.
The news didn’t boost BA stock much, though it did keep it out of the red on a day most other names were losing a lot of ground.
Foot Locker (NYSE:FL), already losing ground since rolling over in April, lost another 19% on Friday after reporting sales and earnings that fell short of expectations. Operating income of 66 cents per share missed estimates of 67 cents, and were down nearly a dime from year-ago numbers. Sales of $1.77 billion were also down a bit year-over-year, but more than that, came up short of the $1.82 billion analysts had modeled.
HAS stock ended the day lower by 10% after the company announced it would be acquiring Entertainment One — the name behind “Peppa Pig,” and others — for $4 billion. Though Entertainment One’s lineup is marketable, investors aren’t sure this is the right step at the right time for the struggling company, which makes “Star Wars,” “Transformers” and “My Little Pony” toys.
Mattel, which owns Barbie and Hot Wheels just to name a few, saw its stock slump 7% largely because Hasbro’s deal to buy Entertainment One makes it very unlikely it would also be looking to acquire Mattel as well. Some investors were hoping, and even expecting, the two lethargic names in the toy business to team up as a means of propping one another up.
Increasingly strained trade ties with China isn’t good news for either toy company either.
As of this writing, James Brumley did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. You can learn more about him at his website jamesbrumley.com, or follow him on Twitter, at @jbrumley.