The U.S. Just “Cut Off All Source Of Funds To Iran”

Plus, the U.S. has exempted more than 400 Chinese products from tariffs, customers are lining up outside Apple stores worldwide, and Roku shares are tanking.

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Stocks were slightly higher Friday morning with the Dow up 67 points, or 0.3%. The S&P 500 added 0.2%, while the Nasdaq gained 0.1%.

In developing news this morning, President Trump has ordered sanctions on Iran’s national bank at “the highest level.” This comes two days after Trump said he told Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!” “This is very big,” Mnuchin said. “We’ve now cut off all source of funds to Iran.” Saudi Arabia said Wednesday that last weekend’s attacks at the heart of its oil infrastructure were “unquestionably sponsored by Iran,” and U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have also pointed the finger at Iran. Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said yesterday that last weekend’s attacks have been “a dramatic escalation of what we have seen in the past. This was a number of airborne projectiles, was very sophisticated, coordinated and it had a dramatic impact on the global markets. What I think this has done is internationalize” problems in the region. Yemen’s Houthi rebels initially claimed responsibility for the attacks and Iran has denied any involvement.

In another sign of softening trade war tensions, the U.S. has temporarily exempted more than 400 Chinese products from tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration last year. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative published the exclusions in three documents Friday morning, including things like Christmas tree lights, dog leashes, printed circuit boards, and plastic straws. Last week, China issued its own list of products exempted from further tariffs. “The latest exemptions are a tacit acknowledgment by the US of the damage being done to domestic interests by the imposition of tariffs,” Stephen Olson, research fellow at the Hinrich Foundation, told CNBC. “The timing however is interesting. It suggests that both sides have determined that further escalations are not desirable right now, so they are trying to create positive atmospherics before the October round of negotiations, in the hopes that those talks will at least forestall any further deterioration.”

The Fed is under more pressure this morning to make a permanent fix even as it readies another $75 billion overnight repo operation today. The liquidity boosts the Fed made this week have calmed the funding market, and repo rates are down to more normal levels after skyrocketing to 10% on Tuesday. But swap spreads fell to record lows yesterday—signaling less appetite for Treasuries on concern traders won’t be able to fund purchases through the repo market—amid concern that Fed policy makers haven’t announced more aggressive steps. “The Fed needs to do at least double what they offered now and maybe even be more vigilant and do something even more significant,” Jefferies senior economist Thomas Simons said. “This attitude of trying to kind-of fix the problem is not great.”

Customers lined up outside of Apple stores this morning as the latest iPhones went on sale. Among the features buyers are most excited about, the new triple-camera system on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro Max. “Instead of buying a new camera, I prefer to upgrade my phone,” said Tarif Karanfil, a shopper who was waiting in line around 6:00am Friday morning to upgrade to the new iPhone 11 Pro Max. Tweets showed images of crowds outside Apple stores today in Berlin, Singapore, and Sydney. JPMorgan analyst Samik Chatterjee said Friday morning that strong pre-order interest for the new models suggests a “robust” iPhone revenue trend. The firm expects 184 million iPhone units sold in 2019, with another 195 million shipments of the smartphone next year. Chatterjee said that his research indicates greater interest in the “lower-end” iPhone 11 model initially, while shipments will be more skewed toward the “mid-end” model over the next 12 months. 

Shares of Roku are down -17% this morning after Pivotal Research Group initiated coverage of the stock this morning with a Sell rating. “We see dramatically more competition emerging that will likely drive the cost of OTT devices to zero and put material pressure on advertising revenue,” Pivotal analyst Jeffrey Wlodarczak wrote in a note to investors. Roku shares were down as much as -15% on Wednesday after Comcast announced it would be giving Xfinity Flex streaming boxes to its internet-only customers free-of-charge, delivering a direct threat to Roku’s streaming devices. “Everyone has realized the living room is too important and the big boys… with massive leverage are likely to make ROKU growth much more difficult,” Wlodarczak said. The analyst added that Comcast’s free Flex device marks a shift that he says “will inevitably be copied by other distributors.”

Stocks We’re Watching

Goldmoney Inc (OTC: XAUMF): Shares of this precious metal financial service and technology company are up 45% so far this year and 6.5% over the past week. Earlier this week, Goldmoney unveiled a new tool that allows customers to securely and effortlessly exchange their metals from one vault to another via the Goldmoney global vault network. “Following on from our recent addition of insured storage locations in Singapore and Frankfurt, we are excited to offer our clients a tool designed to allow them to cost-effectively transfer their metals to any of our growing number of locations,” said Goldmoney Chief Operating Officer Paul Mennega. “We look to continue to refine and enhance our core storage offering in the future through the addition of new locations and new functionality.”

LogMeIn Inc (NASDAQ: LOGM): Shares of this cloud-based communication company were up as muni as 7% yesterday after reports that it is engaged in informal talks about selling off parts of its infrastructure software business. LogMeIn is performing an “internal analysis” to examine the impact of a separation, though no deal is currently on the table.

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