U.S. stocks closed another session of losses Thursday as third-quarter financial results from companies continued to barrel in against a backdrop of persisting growth concerns on Wall Street.
The S&P 500 (^GSPC) fell 0.8%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) shed around 90 points, or 0.3%. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) was down 0.6%. Meanwhile, Treasury yields edged toward new multi-year highs, with the rate-sensitive 2-year note topping 4.6% for the first time since 2007 and the 10-year well above 4.1%, a level last seen in 2008.
The U.K. had U.S. investors’ attention again Thursday with the resignation of Prime Minister Liz Truss after her administration set forth a failed economic package, including plans for tax cuts that roiled financial markets. The pound strengthened and U.K. bonds nudged higher following news Truss will step down by the end of next week.
Back in the U.S., the Labor Department reported an unexpected drop in the number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance for the week ended Oct. 15. Claims fell to 214,000 from a revised 226,000 last week, a sign the labor market remains tight despite efforts to tamp down the economy to cool inflation. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected applications to total 230,000.
“The drop in initial jobless claims supports our view that the increases in the past two weeks were noise rather than signal, triggered by seasonal adjustment problems,” Pantheon Macroeconomics Chief Economist Ian Shepherdson said in a note. “Note too that the low claims numbers are not a guarantee of strong payrolls; when demand first softens, firms cut back gross new hiring before they start laying off existing staff.”
Mike Loewengart, head of model portfolio construction at Morgan Stanley’s Global Investment Office also noted that the figure may not be enough to shift investors’ focus off earnings, but strong jobs data and hot inflation readings in the coming weeks will ramp up projections for a 75-basis-point rate hike to end the year.
“Earnings season is in full swing so as investors parse through with an extra eye on guidance expect volatility to remain elevated,” Loewengart said in emailed commentary.
Telecommunications giant AT&T on Thursday rolled out figures that beat sales and earnings forecasts and raised its profit guidance, also revealing 964,000 new subscribers and asserting its confidence to deliver on previously estimated cash flow for the rest of the year. Shares gained 7.7% Thursday.
And American Airlines Group said that travel demand remains robust despite higher airfares as it raised its profit forecast for the current quarter. The stock erased gains from earlier in the session to fall 3.8% in the second half of the trading day.
Shares of Tesla (TSLA), meanwhile, sank roughly 6.7% after the electric-vehicle maker posted results late Tuesday that disappointed Wall Street, beating on its earnings per share estimate but falling short on quarterly revenue expectations.
The company reiterated its previous guidance of a 50% average annual growth rate on vehicle deliveries for the year, even as it admitted to headwinds from increased costs on raw materials and inefficiencies at its Gigafactory Berlin.
“I can’t emphasize enough that we have excellent demand for Q4 and we expect to sell every car that we make for as far into the future as we can see,” Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said, adding: “North America’s in pretty good health, although the Fed is raising interest rates more than they should, but I think they’ll eventually realize that and bring them down again.”
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said in an interview with Bloomberg TV Wednesday that he expects policymakers to halt the “front-loading” of hefty interest-rate increases by early next year and move to smaller moves as needed until inflation abates.
His colleague in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker, also said in separate comments Thursday the central bank may pause the tightening process next year but took a more assertive tone about lifting the short-term rate to combat inflation.
The Fed’s Beige Book, a publication of economic assessments across the U.S. central bank’s 12 districts, showed businesses have largely remained resilient amid the macroeconomic stage of higher rates and policy tightening thanks to solid pricing power. But some expressed struggles with pushback from consumers over increased prices and inflation that continued to drive up wages.
Corporate earnings have so far reflected resilience, but Wall Street strategists have largely cautioned that earnings-per-share forecasts will continue to come down.
“We’re becoming skeptical this quarter will bring enough earnings capitulation from companies on next year’s numbers for the final price lows of this bear market to happen now,” Morgan Stanley’s top equity strategist Mike Wilson said earlier this week in a podcast. “The final price lows for this bear are likely to be closer to 3000-3200 when companies capitulate and guide 2023 forecasts lower during the fourth quarter earnings season that’s in January and February.”
Tesla adds another recall to a ‘Total Recall’ year
Tesla issues a recall on 80,000 cars in China adding another one to a year with a lot of recalls, but most of them are easily fixed with software updates.
Earlier this year, NHTSA issued a series of recalls on Tesla vehicles that were highly reported in the media.
What was less reported, though, is that almost all of those recalls were fairly simple software issues that Tesla has been able to fix through over-the-air software updates.
Whenever there’s a safety-related issue, NHTSA has to issue a “safety recall,” even if the automaker doesn’t have to physically recall any vehicle, which leads to some confusion.
Again last month, a Tesla recall of “1 million vehicles” made many headlines when the recall simply consisted of Tesla changing how its software handled window operations. These instances have led Tesla CEO Elon Musk to complain about the term “recall” and how it is used against Tesla by the media.
Today, Tesla also announced more recalls in China on about 80,000 vehicles.
According to Chinese authorities, the recall includes 67,698 imported Model S and Model X vehicles with a software problem related to the battery pack. Again, the fix is a simple software update.
However, this time there’s also a physical recall due to a seat belt issue on about 13,000 Model 3 vehicles: 2,736 imported and 10,127 made in China.
With now over 20 recalls in 2022, it has been a “Total Recall” year for Tesla – pun intended:
But Tesla is not the only automaker affected by large recalls this year. Ford just confirmed that it is recalling another half a million vehicles due to a fire risk, and many automakers have also recalled millions of vehicles this year.
If anything, the fact that the large majority of Tesla’s recalls are quickly fixed with over-the-air software updates – rather than having to bring the cars back to the dealership like other automakers – shows that Tesla’s level of connectivity in its vehicles is a major advantage in the industry.
It makes for an easier experience for the customers, and it is much cheaper and more efficient for Tesla.
Flair flight from Vancouver overshoots Ontario runway
Vancouver couple Charissa Landicho and Mac Bradley just wanted a quick and cheap getaway, but a turbulent landing was not on their itinerary.
“I was definitely in shock because it was an overnight flight. I woke up, just, ‘What’s going on?'” Landicho said.
“We touched down and we could hear a loud thud. And it lifted up and it (went) down again,” she recalled.
It was a frightening experience for the 134 passengers on the Flair Airlines Boeing 737, which went off the runway just before 6:30 a.m. Friday morning in southern Ontario.
The flight from Vancouver was landing at the Kitchener-Waterloo airport when it overshot the runway and ended up in the grass.
“To me, it felt like we pulled right and then next thing you know, we’re off the tarmac, in the field pretty much, bouncing around, smacking around,” said Bradley.
“We probably went like 50 to 100 metres off the runway,” he continued.
He said their plane tickets cost about $100 each, roundtrip, potentially saving them hundreds by going with the budget airline.
With no announcement or warning, the couple said they were only told to stay put and waited an hour to finally get off the plane.
“It was a little bit questionable because it seemed like nobody really knew what to do on the plane other than just trying to keep calm. So that was a little bit unnerving,” said Bradley.
“And the fact that we just got an automated text after asking us to leave a Google review on our experience was a little satirical,” he added.
In a statement, Flair Airlines said there were no reported injuries and passengers were taken to the terminal by bus.
There is no word on what caused the aircraft to overshoot the runway, but the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has been deployed to investigate.
Black Friday impacted by changing shopping habits
When Shopify Inc.’s Harley Finkelstein surveys November’s retail landscape, he finds it hard to see where Black Friday stops and Cyber Monday begins.
The annual pre-holiday sales blitzes meant to encourage customers to drop cash on discounted goods have bled together in recent years, with stores extending Black Friday promotions beyond a single day and online retailers offering Cyber Monday deals all week — or all month.
“Black Friday/Cyber Monday used to be a weekend, now it’s more of a season,” said the president of the Ottawa e-commerce giant.
Many in the retail industry feel the divisions will be even more hazy this Cyber Monday as the COVID-19 health crisis continues to reshape shopping habits.
During the pandemic, which saw stores temporarily close and people retreat inside their homes, there was a surge in online shopping.
As measures meant to quell the virus eased, many kept shopping online — but not at the rate some brands anticipated.
“Online shopping grew in popularity, obviously, through the pandemic, but it’s actually fallen off now because people are returning back to the store,” said Lisa Hutcheson, managing partner at J.C. Williams Group, a consulting firm.
“E-commerce spending is actually down year-to-date 11.5 per cent.”
The consumer shift back to brick-and-mortar stores blindsided Shopify, which had banked on online shopping continuing to accelerate at pandemic rates.
“It’s now clear that bet didn’t pay off,” chief executive Tobi Lutke said in a July statement announcing the company was laying off 10 per cent of staff as a result of the misjudgment.
The company’s stock traded for as high as $212 in the past year but has averaged closer to $50 in recent days.
So there’s a lot riding on the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend.
“Black Friday/Cyber Monday is sort of our Super Bowl,” said Finkelstein. “The culture and the energy at the company is really high right now.”
A survey his company conducted with 24,000 consumers and 9,000 small and medium businesses around the world found 59 per cent of Canadians planned to spend the same amount as or more than last year on Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. That figure rose to 74 per cent for those between the age of 25 and 34.
Finkelstein finds it hard to predict how the weekend will go, though he suspects it will be very different from last year, when the country was consumed with product shortages and the Omicron wave of COVID-19.
“This Black Friday/Cyber Monday seems far less frantic than last year,” he said. “There are less supply chain issues, more physical stores are open, there’s more inventory. There’s better capacity planning at the shipping companies.”
However, there is a new problem: inflation remains stubbornly high.
Michelle Wasylyshen of the Retail Council of Canada says “consumers tightened their belts a little” in recent months but still plan to spend the same as they did last holiday season, roughly $790.
“The difference this year is that they will be looking for more meaningful or practical gifts,” she wrote in an email. “They might also decrease the number of people they buy for or will give fewer gifts per person, but they do plan to shop.”
Finkelstein also foresees a more measured approach.
“They may not buy five things they have mediocre love for. They may buy two things they deeply want,” said Finkelstein.
“And they may also be thoughtful about how they buy … Is there a discount coming? I’ll wait until Thursday night or until Cyber Monday.”
The term Cyber Monday was coined in 2005 by the National Retail Federation, which noticed the Monday after Black Friday had delivered a big spike for online sales and traffic in the prior two years.
“We won’t be seeing quite the same spike that we have in the past,” Hutcheson predicted.
Some of that forecast comes from the stretched shopping window but also because some people are going to stick with their pandemic habits of online shopping.
Moneris is predicting Cyber Monday will be the busiest online shopping day, following a trend set in 2019 and 2020. However, Black Friday is still expected to be the busiest day in terms of total transaction count and dollars spent across all mediums.
Hutcheson said the week will play out as an “omnichannel view.”
Omnichannel is an industry term referring to making shopping seamless across online and mobile platforms as well as brick-and-mortar stores.
Finkelstein likes the term because the retail industry “is no longer online versus offline.”
“Saying omnichannel is a strategy will soon be akin to saying colour TV,” he said. “It is the norm and so consumers are shopping everywhere and everywhere.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2022.
Companies in this story: (TSX:SHOP)
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