The Trump administration has officially lifted its designation of China as a currency manipulator, more than five months after the country was added to the list. The nation has made “enforceable commitments” not to devalue the yuan and has agreed to publish exchange rate information, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said ahead of the scheduled signing of a “Phase One” trade deal on Wednesday. The yuan strengthened to its strongest level since July in offshore trading on the news, punching past 6.9 per dollar.
Go deeper: U.S. trade deficit with China was reduced in 2019.
In an effort to position itself as a leader in sustainable investing, BlackRock (NYSE:BLK) has unveiled sweeping changes that will double the number of sustainability-focused ETFs it offers to 150. The world’s largest fund manager will also cut companies that derive a quarter or more of their profits from thermal coal from its actively managed portfolios, and assess environmental, social and governance (ESG) “with the same rigor as traditional measures such as liquidity and credit risk.” The moves will go a long way toward BlackRock’s goal of increasing its sustainable assets ten-fold from $90B today to $1T within a decade.
Go deeper: Sam Kovacs becomes wary of BlackRock’s dividend.
According to the latest figures from the Treasury Department, the U.S. fiscal deficit exceeded $1T in 2019, marking the first time it has passed that level in a calendar year since 2012. The future is not looking better. For the fiscal year, which began in October, the shortfall is already at $356.6B, an 11.7% increase from a year ago. As deficits have swelled, so has the national debt, which now stands at $23.2T.
The recent Big Tech surge is good news for anyone chasing the sector higher, but several strategists highlight it’s a sign investors have lost their risk appetite. The top five publicly traded American companies – Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) – now make up a record 18% share of the S&P 500 Index’s capitalization. That ratio is higher than the tech bubble, according to Morgan Stanley, amid fears the economic cycle will slow.
Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) rallied 3% on Monday after leading Oscar nominations with 24 nods – a first for a streaming service. Disney (NYSE:DIS), meanwhile, scored 23 nominations and Sony (NYSE:SNE) had 20, while Warner Bros. (NYSE:T) earned the distinction of having the most-nominated film of the year with Joker bagging 11 nominations. Nominations doesn’t mean the studio will come home with the most trophies. In December, Netflix garnered the most Golden Globe nominations (17) but only won two awards.
Go deeper: ‘Netflix: There Are Greater Concerns, Beyond New Competition’ by Aristofanis Papadatos.
Visa (NYSE:V) is shelling out $5.3B to buy privately held software startup Plaid, whose technology lets people link their bank accounts to mobile apps like Venmo, Acorns and Chime. Consumers have increasingly been using financial services apps to manage their savings and spending, and Plaid sits in the middle of those relationships. The $5.3B price tag is double what Plaid was reportedly valued at during its last fundraising, when it took a $250M Series C round that was announced in December 2018.
Options on exchange-traded bitcoin futures launched Monday on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, in response to growing crypto attraction and demand for tools to manage bitcoin (BTC-USD) exposure. While volumes and open interest on a rival exchange known as Bakkt have been “rather small,” the new offering could be a game changer, said strategists at JPMorgan led by Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou. “The first day of trading might be irrelevant – the first weeks and months might be more material,” added Mike McGlone, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence.
Walmart (NYSE:WMT) will add shelf-scanning robots to 650 more U.S. stores by the end of the summer, bringing its fleet to 1,000. The six-foot-tall Bossa Nova devices, equipped with 15 cameras each, can reduce tasks that once took as long as two weeks into a twice-daily routine. The world’s largest retailer’s increasingly automated workforce already includes bots that scrub floors, unload trucks and gather online grocery orders.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has called on Apple (AAPL) to help the FBI unlock two iPhones used by Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, who is suspected of killing three people last month in a shooting at a Navy base in Pensacola, Florida. “So far Apple has not given us any substantive assistance,” he declared, though the tech giant rejected the characterization. In 2016, the FBI cracked the iPhone of one of San Bernardino shooters via a third party, after Apple refused to break into the iPhone and called the demand “dangerous, unprecedented and chilling.”