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Economy

Bullish Sign for the Economy: Rising Copper and Silver Prices – Barron's

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Silver bars


Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images

Industrial metals posted gains in the third quarter, with silver up sharply and copper touching its highest prices in over two years, suggesting that the worst of the coronavirus hit to the economy may be over.

The third quarter economic backdrop was “very supportive of the overall commodity complex,” including industrial metals, says
John Caruso
, senior asset manager at RJO Futures. “The ‘reflation’ trade, assisted by the reopening of the economy and record [Federal Reserve] and government stimulus, helped the metals complex gain plenty of fervor” following the second quarter Covid-19-related shutdown and economic collapse.

On Sept. 30, silver futures posted a 26% climb for the third quarter and copper futures finished about 11% higher.

“Optimism around the reopening of the global economy, continued rally in risk-on assets, improving global economic data, and the hopes of additional stimulus helped propel the upward movement in industrial metals,” says Ed Egilinsky, managing director, head of alternatives at Direxion. The recent moves in the metals “certainly support a narrative that the worst of the economic slowdown exacerbated by Covid-19 might be behind us.”

The industrial metals had struggled earlier in the year as restrictions tied to coronavirus slowed industrial production and hurt supply and demand for the commodities, he says. The reduction in supply created in part by the shutdown in production ”will only go so far, as the demand side needs to continue to accelerate.”

Silver’s quarterly performance was impressive, especially when compared to a more modest 5.3% rise in gold futures for the same period.

Silver “benefitted from both the industrial and investment side of its demand equation” during the quarter, says Maria Smirnova, senior portfolio manager at Sprott Asset Management. Demand for the metal has been rebounding along with the world economy and its appeal as an investment has also climbed, reacting just like gold to declining real interest rates and the U.S. dollar index.

Copper, meanwhile, known as a leading indicator of economic health because of its broad use in a range of industrial applications, posted a gain for a second straight quarter. Futures prices settled as high as $3.116 a pound on Sept. 18, the highest since June 2018.

“Global growth has seen a sharp recovery off the March lows” on the heels of the “massive monetary and fiscal policies that were put in place by many central banks in early spring to help stabilize the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic,” says Stephanie Link, chief investment strategist and portfolio manager at Hightower Advisors. In the U.S., momentum has been “significant,” especially in housing, auto and manufacturing, she says.

“If copper prices go up, that is a signal of better economic health and if it goes down, it indicates the opposite,” she says, adding that the “massive stimulus globally” will lead to better economic growth and “should keep a bid on industrial metals, including copper.”

Looking ahead to the fourth quarter, however, Caruso warned of “additional challenges” for the U.S. and global growth outlook, including a rise in Covid-19 cases, a “very pivotal” U.S. election, and lack of additional plans for stimulus.

“We’re not nearly as bullish on the commodity complex for Q4 as we once were back in June,” and the quarter is likely to be “less friendly” to industrial metals than the quarter just ended, Caruso says. Gold may hold up the best in a “risk-off” scenario in global markets, but industrial metals “may begin to underperform.”

Still, “there’s a high probability of a major infrastructure deal pending in Washington,” and that coupled with a “favorable outlook” for the U.S. and Chinese economies should keep demand strong for the industrial metals well into 2021, he says.

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Economy

Big Tech Continues Its Surge Ahead of the Rest of the Economy – The New York Times

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While the rest of the U.S. economy languished earlier this year, the tech industry’s biggest companies seemed immune to the downturn, surging as the country worked, learned and shopped from home.

On Thursday, as the economy is showing signs of improvement, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Facebook reported profits that highlighted how a recovery may provide another catalyst to help them generate a level of wealth that hasn’t been seen in a single industry in generations.

With an entrenched audience of users and the financial resources to press their leads in areas like cloud computing, e-commerce and digital advertising, the companies demonstrated again that economic malaise, upstart competitors and feisty antitrust regulators have had little impact on their bottom line.

Combined, the four companies reported a quarterly net profit of $38 billion.

Amazon reported record sales, and an almost 200 percent rise in profits, as the pandemic accelerated the transition to online shopping. Despite a boycott of its advertising over the summer, Facebook had another blockbuster quarter. Alphabet’s record quarterly net profit was up 59 percent, as marketers plowed money into advertisements for Google search and YouTube. And Apple’s sales rose even though the pandemic forced it to push back the iPhone 12’s release to October, in the current quarter.

On Tuesday, Microsoft, Amazon’s closest competitor in cloud computing, also reported its most profitable quarter, growing 30 percent from a year earlier.

“The scene that’s playing out fundamentally is that these tech stalwarts are gaining more market share by the day,” said Dan Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities. “It’s ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ for this group of tech companies and everyone else.”

The results were strong despite increasing antitrust scrutiny from regulators. Last week, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit accusing Google of cementing the dominance of its search engine through anticompetitive agreements with device makers and mobile carriers. Facebook faces a possible antitrust case from the Federal Trade Commission.

The companies’ advantages are becoming more pronounced in an economy starting to dig out from the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, the Commerce Department said U.S. economic output grew 7.4 percent last quarter, the fastest pace on record, but remained below where it was in the last pre-pandemic quarter.

That slow return to health is also providing momentum to companies that suffered early in the pandemic, like Twitter, which reported on Thursday that revenue rose 14 percent in the third quarter as advertisers started to return. Twitter’s stock dropped about 14 percent in after-hours trading on Thursday, a reaction that analysts attributed to slow user growth.

Big Tech’s third-quarter boom could look modest when compared with the final quarter of the year. For Apple, it’s when consumers buy newly released iPhones. And the year-end shopping peak means lots of customers turning to Amazon for gifts, while advertisers rely on Google and Facebook for digital ads during the holidays.

The pandemic-fueled surge in online shopping pushed Amazon to a record for both sales and profits in the latest quarter.

Sales were $96.1 billion, up 37 percent from a year earlier, and profits rose to $6.3 billion.

The quarter did not include the usual boost from Prime Day, Amazon’s yearly deal bonanza, which was delayed to October. And the profit increased during a building boom, with Amazon expanding its fulfillment infrastructure by 50 percent this year. The company added almost 250,000 employees in the quarter, for the first time surpassing more than a million workers.

The lucrative Amazon Web Services division grew 29 percent as companies continued their shift to cloud computing.

Amazon said sales could reach $121 billion in the fourth quarter because of the confluence of Prime Day, the holiday shopping season and the turn to online spending.

The delay in the iPhone 12’s release meant Apple would face a tough comparison with the same quarter last year, which included sales of the iPhone 11. As a result, iPhone sales dropped more than 20 percent in the quarter.

A delay in releasing the new iPhone, which customers lined up to buy in Manhattan, didn’t stop Apple from increasing overall sales last quarter.
Credit…Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Yet Apple’s overall sales still rose 1 percent to $64.7 billion, showing the increasing strength of other parts of the company’s business.

Apple’s services segment, which includes revenues from the App Store and offerings like Apple Music, increased 16 percent to $14.5 billion. Sales rose 46 percent for iPads, 29 percent for Mac computers and 21 percent for wearables.

Profits fell 7 percent to $12.7 billion, partly because the company spent more on research and development.

“There are lots going on here, and everything is going incredibly well,” Luca Maestri, Apple’s finance chief, said in an interview.

Facebook’s revenue for the third quarter rose 22 percent from a year earlier, to $21.2 billion, while profits jumped 29 percent to $7.84 billion. The results surpassed analysts’ estimates of $19.8 billion in revenue and profits of $5.53 billion, according to data provided by FactSet.

Facebook had strong results despite a wide-ranging boycott by advertisers this summer over issues of hate and toxic speech on the site. Though the grass-roots campaign, Stop Hate for Profit, rallied many of the top advertisers on Facebook to reduce their spending, the overall effects were brief.

The company continued gaining users as well. More than 1.82 billion people used the Facebook app every day, up 12 percent from a year earlier, it said. More than 2.54 billion people now use one or more of Facebook’s family of apps — Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger or Facebook — daily, up 15 percent from a year earlier.

After its first-ever decline in quarterly revenue in the second quarter, Alphabet rebounded with its highest-ever profit. The strength came from across Google, with search advertising revenue growing 6 percent and YouTube ad spending rising 32 percent. Google’s cloud computing business grew 45 percent.

When advertisers slowed spending with Google this year as Covid-19 started to spread, Alphabet’s business took a significant hit. But as the economy has improved and businesses found their footing, advertisers have returned.

Alphabet posted a net profit of $11.25 billion in the third quarter as revenue rose 14 percent to $46.1 billion. Ruth Porat, Alphabet’s chief financial officer, said the improved profitability reflected efforts to cut costs during the economic downturn, including a hiring slowdown.

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Economy

NEW: Economic Comeback Under President Trump Breaks 70-Year Record – Whitehouse.gov

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News broke this morning that real GDP grew at an annualized rate of 33.1% in the third quarter of 2020—beating expectations and setting an all-time record.

This jump in GDP is nearly double the previous record set 70 years ago.

Thanks to President Trump’s policies, the American economy is weathering the global pandemic better than any other major Western country, including those of Europe. As the Council of Economic Advisers wrote this morning:

While the pandemic hit every major economy around the world, the United States experienced the least severe economic contraction of any major Western economy in the first half of 2020, with the Euro Area economy’s contraction being 1.5 times as severe as the contraction of the U.S. economy.

Since April, America has gained over 11.4 million jobs, recovering more than half of those lost because of lockdowns. Retail sales are already above pre-pandemic levels, many construction and manufacturing jobs have returned, business activity is at a 20-month high, and new jobless claims fell to their lowest level this week since the beginning of the pandemic.

This “V-shaped” recovery is beating economist predictions and outpacing the slow recovery under former President Obama. After the 2008-09 recession, it took the Obama Administration 4 times as long to regain the same share of lost economic output.

🎬 WATCH: The media has an obligation to share this news.

Two big reasons explain President Trump’s success. The first is that his pro-growth, pro-worker agenda made our economic fundamentals stronger. Before Coronavirus swept the globe, American incomes hit a record high in 2019 while poverty rates hit a record low. Median incomes saw their biggest one-year jump ever.

Second, President Trump took targeted action to help American workers and families after the Coronavirus hit. His Administration negotiated the CARES Act, implemented the Paycheck Protection Program to save jobs, extended supplemental unemployment benefits, paused student loan payments, and halted evictions.

Today, the left wants to emulate Europe, issue endless lockdowns, and use the pandemic as an excuse to grow government control of the economy and society. President Trump wants to keep working with the private sector, protect the most vulnerable among us, and safely reopen our economy and schools.

Today’s GDP report makes it clear: The data supports President Trump’s strategy.

The Great American Comeback is well underway—a testament to both President Trump’s policies and the strength and resilience of America’s workers and families.

📖 Great American Recovery: 3rd quarter GDP smashes expectations

🎬 Larry Kudlow: The Trump agenda gave momentum to businesses

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Economy

US economy sees record third-quarter rebound – The Globe and Mail

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US economy sees record third-quarter rebound  The Globe and Mail



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