Hot Stock Minute
It’s a foregone conclusion in the financial world-- the Federal Reserve is going to begin raising interest rates soon. The big question is…when?
In 2008, the Ben Bernanke-led Fed slashed short-term rates to basically zero during the height of the financial crisis, as the global economic system teetered on collapse. The move was designed to pump much-needed liquidity into the economy. The Fed then followed that with several versions of “Quantitative Easing”-- bond buying programs that poured trillions of dollars into circulation.
But those “QE” purchases ended in October. And with the recovery well underway, the now Janet Yellen-led Fed is looking to finally start tightening the money supply without throwing a monkey wrench into the comeback.
So why do anything? After all, things are going so well.
Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli says that’s the point.
“This zero interest rate, emergency stimulus policy really was for an economy in distress,” he notes. “With the job market getting better, the recovery underway, they don’t want to be sending the signal that the economy needs that kind of extraordinary help anymore.”
2014 may end up being known as the year of M and A.
Merger and acquisition activity has soared. Thomson-Reuters puts the total value of deals in the U.S. at well above the $1 trillion dollar mark. That’s an increase of more than 50% from 2013.
Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli says several factors have been behind companies’ desire to tie the knot.
“You had the ideal conditions to fuel an M&A boom,” he argues. “You have high stock prices which give CEOs confidence and gives you a very expensive currency you can buy things with, interest rates are very low, the corporate bond market and bank loan market are very generous, so you can finance almost any deal.”
Santoli notes that timing is a big factor as well.
“It happens at the latter part of any bull market and in a corporate profit cycle,” he notes. “We’ve had a profits boom for five years now, and a lot of companies are in the position of saying: ‘We’re not really sure how much organic growth we can count on, let’s look to see if we can strategically buy some more growth or somehow set up our business in a smarter way.’”
Santoli believes conditions remain in place for the M&A boom to continue into the new year.
Shake Shack, the fast-food chain that rose from a single hot dog stand in a New York City park to a Gotham icon, is going public.
But will Wall Street investors gobble up the stock?
The company, which was founded by restaurateur Danny Meyer in 2001, is hoping to raise up to $100 million in an initial public offering. That could value the company as much as $1 billion. Shake Shack plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol, SHAK.
This year, Shake Shack’s sales soared 41% through September 24th, although profit decreased as the company focused on adding new restaurants. It now has 63 locations around the world.
Yahoo Columnist Rick Newman says the company is trying to take advantage of its roots.
“Clearly they’re going to carry that New York vibe to other parts of the country,” he says. “Coastal places are hot so that part of the business makes sense.”
But Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli wonders if being ubiquitous takes some of the edge off of having that New York vibe.
Stocks taking a step back after a record setting performance in 2014. T he S&P 500 (^GSPC) hitting its 53 rd record close on Monday.
On the economic front.
Consumer Confidence figures came in slightly lower than the 93 level economists’ were expecting.
The Conference Board reporting that consumer confidence rose to 92.6 in December from a revised reading of 91 in November.
Oil ( OIL ) related shares are under pressure this morning as crude prices fall to fresh five year lows on continuing worries about oversupply.
Yahoo Columnist Rick Newman says some companies were not prepared for the rapid decline in oil prices and we are going to be reverberations of this for months, especially with the weaker players in the industry.
In other company specific news.
The flap surrounding Sony’s (SNE) comedy, “The Interview,” is helping turn it into an internet success.
The company reporting it’s already pulled in $15 million in online sales and rentals of the movie since its web release December 24 th . And the 2 million downloads make “The Interview” Sony’s biggest online film ever.
Of course, Sony streamed “The Interview” after pulling it from traditional theaters when hackers-- believed to be tied to North Korea-- made terror threats against movie houses that ran it. The film spoofs the assassination of that country’s leader, Kim Jung Un.
And Yahoo Finance’s Rick Newman says this streaming “victory” really is nothing for Sony to cheer about.
“It’s not a Hollywood ending, it’s kind of a consolation prize,” he argues. “This film was projected to gross somewhere between $30 million and $60 million, just in the first week or so. So Sony salvaged some money here, but it’s still a big loss.”
Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli agrees.
Icahn pushes Manitowoc to split; American Apparel faces more pressure to sell itself; Greek stocks tumble as country heads for snap electionKathy Cherpelis at Hot Stock Minute 8 mths ago
Activist investor Carl Icahn is at it again.
Manitowoc (MTW) share surged in early trading on news Icahn is pushing the company to split its cranes and food-service equipment businesses into two separate companies. This after Icahn disclosed he acquired a 7.8% stake in the manufacturer.
The drama in Greece is also very much in focus this morning.
Greek (GREK) related shares were under pressure after the country's parliament failed to elect a new president for the third and final time. Greece will now be forced to call a snap election early next year which could put the country's international bailout in jeopardy.
American Apparel (APP) is back in the spotlight. The struggling retailer received a letter from hedge fund Lion Capital on Sunday asking it to consider its strategic options including the possible sale of the company. This comes after a preliminary takeover proposal from private equity firm Irving Place Capital that valued the company at $1.30 to $1.40 a share.
Stocks struggle to keep up record-setting pace; Greece roils Euro markets; Sony's 'The Interview' is big online
Wall Street’s record breaking streak is running into some resistance.
Stocks kicking off the last week of 2014 on a mixed note as investors eye the drama playing out in Greece (GREK ) after the country's parliament failed to elect a new president for the third and final time. Greece will now be forced to call a snap election early next year which could put the country's international bailout in jeopardy
Meanwhile, activist investor Carl Icahn is at it again.
Manitowoc ( MTW ) shares surged in early trading on news Icahn is pushing the company to split its cranes and food-service equipment businesses into two separate companies. This after Icahn disclosed he acquired about a 7.8% stake in the manufacturer.
$1,000,000,000,000. One Trillion Dollars.
No American company has ever had a market cap with that many zeroes in it. Does Apple - already the world’s most valuable company - have a chance of hitting the trillion dollar milestone next year?
Apple shares are already up more than 40% since the beginning of the year with sales of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus surpassing expectations. IPhone sales overall in the third quarter nearly topped 40 million and the holiday season is looking strong. The company expects to sell more this Christmas quarter than in the whole of 2010.
Still, Yahoo Finance Technology Reporter Aaron Pressman says it’s not enough to get to $170 a share, which is roughly where the stock would need to trade to have a trillion dollar market cap.
“Even if iPhone sales really boom this year, you’re still short of the $170 unless there’s some other add on business. So you have to look at the watch or Apple Pay or maybe something we haven’t imagined yet.”
Pressman’s not convinced the watch will do the trick.
Boom. Boom. Bust?
Our long running bull market is on track to make it intact into 2015, but how much longer can it last?
Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli thinks this market, born in the dark depths of the great recession, has more to run, but the story driving it to record highs needs to change.
“It can’t just be about ultra low interest rates, high liquidity and bond yields being really low and, therefore, stocks looking relatively better,” Santoli says.
Santoli thinks we need to move beyond the stock buybacks and financial engineering that’s been driving the last few years and look for a shift towards the all-powerful American consumer.
“The domestic consumer looks like he and she is in pretty good shape, gas prices coming down, retailers doing better,” says Santoli.
In addition, Santoli believes financials could pick up some slack, if expected interest rate increases from the Fed next year boost bank earnings.
Sounds bad, but maybe not as bad as you think.
Sony attorney David Boies has sent a letter to Twitter saying it will be held responsible for users who post what is described as “stolen” material. The letter is similar to one Boise sent to news organizations last week.
Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli says it an effort by Sony to put a lid on the leaks.
“The main argument is this is stolen, private information, and it’s not allowed according to Twitter rules to share someone else’s private information,” he notes. “So Boies obviously wants to have a chilling effect here and say let’s try to discourage people from sharing a lot more of this detail.”
Santoli believes this is a murky legal issue.
But Santoli believes this is an issue worth debating.