Wall Street Breakfast: Latest GDP Reading In Focus

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Wall Street is pointing to modest declines, with U.S. stock index futures down 0.3%, amid shaky trade talks, the collapse of the North Korea summit and escalating tensions between India and Pakistan. Traders are now eyeing this morning’s release of Q4 GDP, which is expected to show a growth rate of around 2.3%, marking a figure that might leave 2018 growth just shy of the Trump administration’s 3% annual target. “The key issue is the reported plunge in December retail sales,” said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics. “Retail sales account for about 30% of GDP, so a big miss even in just one month of the quarter is enough to make a material difference.”

Economy

South Korea’s KOSPI index closed down 1.8% – the most since Oct. 23 – and the nation’s currency fell 0.5% after President Trump cut short his nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that,” Trump told reporters. “We asked Chairman Kim to do more and he was unprepared to do that,” added Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Statements from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are weighing on Chinese investor sentiment, with the Shanghai Composite falling 0.4% during the session. He said it was too early to predict an outcome in trade talks and the U.S. will need to maintain the threat of tariffs on Chinese goods for years, even if Washington and Beijing strike a deal. China’s manufacturing PMI for February also fell to 49.2, highlighting another contraction and deepening cracks in the country’s economy.

Although the move won’t have immediate consequences, the U.K.’s main opposition Labour Party is finally committed to calling for a second Brexit referendum. A substantial minority of Tories last night also abstained or voted against the new timetable set out by Theresa May, including a future option on delaying Brexit. France’s Emmanuel Macron previously insisted that no delay to Brexit can be granted unless there is evidence of a plan in Britain to break the current impasse.

Venezuela has shifted some crude exports from American refiners to India and Europe, though analysts say it will be difficult for the Maduro government to generate a profit from these sales and counter U.S. pressure. The new sanctions against state-run PDVSA, effective Jan. 28, have reduced the country’s daily oil exports to the U.S. to 149,000 barrels a day in February from 484,000 bpd last month.

Stocks

Luckin Coffee, which has ambitions to overtake Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) in China this year, has tapped three banks including Credit Suisse to work on a U.S. IPO, Reuters reports. The Beijing-based startup, which is targeting a valuation of about $3B, opened over 2,000 cafes last year and aims to launch 2,500 new outlets in 2019. Luckin is said to have chosen New York for the listing, as Hong Kong generally requires IPO applicants to have a track record of three financial years.

Shares of Celgene sank 8% AH following news that key shareholder Wellington Management does not support Bristol-Myers’ (NYSE:BMY) $74B acquisition of the biotech company. In a release, the institutional investor said it “does not believe that the Celgene (NASDAQ:CELG) transaction is an attractive path towards” business that “secures differentiated science and broadens the future revenue base.”

Federal filings suggest PG&E (NYSE:PCG) delayed for years a safety overhaul of a century-old transmission line that is suspected of starting the Camp Fire wildfire. PG&E told regulators in 2013 it planned to replace many of the towers, wires and hardware pieces on the line, and again proposed the project in 2014, 2015 and 2016 after pushing it back each year. Work was then expected to start in June 2018, but it still has not begun.

BlackBerry has filed a patent infringement lawsuit accusing Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) of illegally using technology in its mobile messaging applications that had been developed by the former smartphone maker. The suit resembles previous patent infringement cases that BlackBerry (NYSE:BB) filed against Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and Snap (NYSE:SNAP) – which are still pending – according to records with the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The U.S. spent 2018 mounting a serious lobbying effort to stop Huawei hardware from being used in international 5G network buildouts, but the Chinese telecom equipment supplier appears to be here to stay. At this week’s Mobile World Congress 2019, Huawei took home another five GSMA awards and its 5G deals continued. Even close allies such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and South Korea haven’t fully shut Huawei out yet. Related: NOK, ERIC

As many as 1 in 5 people today are mooching off of someone else’s account when streaming video from Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), Hulu (CMCSA, DIS, FOX, T) or Amazon Video (NASDAQ:AMZN), according to a new study from CordCutting.com. On average, Netflix tends to be pirated for the longest period – at 26 months – compared with 16 months for Amazon Prime Video or 11 months for Hulu. Netflix could be losing $192M in revenue per month from the piracy – more than the $45M monthly loss estimated for Amazon or $40M for Hulu.

The race is on for next-generation high-speed satellite internet. OneWeb and partner Airbus (OTCPK:EADSY) have sent up their first six satellites to space, using an Arianespace Soyuz rocket launched from French Guiana. OneWeb plans to begin launching more than 30 satellites per month starting as early as September so its constellation of 650 satellites is nearly 25% complete by year-end.

Deepening their alliance, Daimler (OTCPK:DDAIF) and BMW (OTCPK:BMWYY) have agreed to share development costs for highly automated driving technologies, even as each automaker continues to pursue separate efforts to develop fully self-driving cars. Spiraling costs have already prompted Honda (NYSE:HMC) to pool its autonomous efforts with General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Volkswagen (OTCPK:VWAGY) to pursue talks about an alliance with Ford (NYSE:F). Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) also announced plans Wednesday to lay off 190 employees in its self-driving car program called Project Titan.

U.S. companies installed more robots last year than ever before, with shipments hitting 28,478, nearly 16% more than in 2017, according to data set to be released by the Association for Advancing Automation. Many companies are weighing bringing work back from overseas in response to the Trump administration’s trade wars and may find automation as the best way to stay competitive. ETFs: ROBO, BOTZ, IRBO, ROBT, UBOT

Wednesday’s Key Earnings

Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) +14.1% amid a strong holiday quarter.
Booking Holdings (NASDAQ:BKNG) -9.2% AH on disappointing guidance.
Box (NYSE:BOX) -24.2% AH giving a downside forecast for FY20.
Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) +10.3% crushing estimates.
Fitbit (NYSE:FIT) -13.4% AH on flat revenues, light outlook.
HP Inc. (NYSE:HPQ) -12% AH with declines in desktops, notebooks.
Lowe’s (NYSE:LOW) +2.5% making gains against Home Depot.
Square (NYSE:SQ) -6.7% AH posting weaker Q1 EPS guidance.

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