The Phase One Trade Deal May Not Be Signed Until December

Plus, productivity unexpectedly dropped last quarter, Xerox wants to buy HP Inc, and Walgreens may take itself private.

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Stocks were little changed this morning with to Dow adding just 7 points. The S&P 500 traded around the flatline, while the Nasdaq fell 0.2%.

The market was less optimistic this morning on reports that the phase one trade deal between the U.S. and China may not be signed until December as discussions continue over the terms and venue of the signing, according to a senior Trump Administration official. The official told Reuters that it was still possible the phase one agreement would not be reached, but that a deal was more likely than not. Several sites have been suggested for the signing after last week’s cancellation of the meeting in Chile where leaders of the two countries were expected to sign the trade agreement, but no site has yet been approved.

On the impeachment front, the House Intelligence Committee will hold its first open hearings in the impeachment investigation next week, according to chairman Adam Schiff. And transcripts from diplomat Gordon Sondland’s testimony to the House impeachment panels contradicted the assertions made by Trump and his allies that there was no quid pro quo in the administration’s contacts with Ukraine. Sondland said that he told a Ukrainian official that American military aid would be withheld unless the country announced investigations sought by Trump, and also said that Ukraine opening a probe into Joe Biden’s son was a condition for a White House meeting with Trump for Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Productivity in the U.S. unexpectedly dropped last quarter, the first decline in nearly four years. According to a Labor Department report, non-farm business employee output per hour decreased at a 0.3% annualized rate in the third quarter, missing estimates for a 0.9% increase. “The trend overall for productivity is still mediocre at best and that suggests that the economy’s potential growth rate hasn’t really changed too much,” said director of real-time economics at Moody’s Analytics, Ryan Sweet. “That’s going to put some further pressure on corporate profit margins, which already are compressing. That could become more problematic for business investment, hiring down the road.”

HP Inc shares are soaring today after reports that Xerox has made a cash-and-stock offer for the personal computer and printer maker. According to sources, combining the two companies could save the unified company more than $2 billion in expenses. The Wall Street Journal reported that HP Inc’s board discussed the possibility on Tuesday and Xerox has an informal funding commitment from a major bank. Elsewhere, Walgreens Boots Alliance is looking at a possible deal to take itself private in would could become the largest leveraged buyout in history. Walgreens has a market value of roughly $55 billion and has recently held informal talks with private equity firms, including KKR. 

Stocks We’re Watching

Arcadia Biosciences (NASDAQ: RKDA): Arcadia Biosciences shares jumped 22% yesterday after the company announced it had secured its first purchase commitment for its high-fiber bread wheat for 2020 through its North American partner Bay State Milling Company. The company also announced the successful harvest of its GoodWheat non-genetically modified wheat varieties on 4,000 acres in Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, and Arizona. “We are pleased with this year’s GoodWheat harvest, which exceeded the number of acres planted in 2018 by 10 times,” said Arcadia president and CEO, Matt Plavan. “We are well positioned to hit our revenue targets for GoodWheat in 2020 and 2021, having secured all our existing growers as repeat GoodWheat farmers, and expanding our acreage to meet our 2020 sales commitments and plans.”

Arvinas Inc (NASDAQ: ARVN): Shares of this biotech are up nearly 8% over the last week following the company giving investors their first look at clinical data from the Phase I clinical trials of its ARV-110 ( for prostate cancer) and ARV-471 (for breast cancer). Goldman Sachs analyst Terence Flynn upgraded the stock to a Buy on reviewing the results, with a price target of $38 – 65% higher than the current price. Flynn recognized that while the “trials are still in the early stages, the analyst says both drugs have “blockbuster potential” with potential peak sales of $2.9 billion, and $4.7 billion, respectively.

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