Plus, General Motors and LG Chem are teaming up to build a new battery factory for electric vehicles, and Dollar General delivered an earnings beat.
Stocks were little changed to start Thursday with the Dow down 8 points, or 0.02%. The S&P 500 added 0.1%, while the Nasdaq traded 0.2% higher.
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China and the U.S. have just 10 days to finalize a phase one trade deal before additional U.S. tariffs on $156 billion worth of Chinese goods go into effect. Yesterday’s reports that, harsh rhetoric aside, both countries were moving forward with negotiations and President Donald Trump saying that talks were going “very well” lifted sentiment around the trade deal, helping the market snap a three-day losing streak. Today, Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng said that both sides remain in close communication on trade and added that China “believes if both sides reach a phase-one agreement, relevant tariffs must be lowered.” “The last few days have made it please this is still a market focused on the prospect for some resolution to the trade war with China,” said Baird investment strategist Willie Delwiche. “Any hopes that we were moving beyond that seem to be dashed.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today asked the House committees investigating President Trump to proceed with drawing articles of impeachment. “The facts at uncontested. The president abused his power for his own personal benefit. Today, I’m asking our chairmen to proceed with articles of impeachment. …The president’s actions have seriously violated the Constitution,” Pelosi said in a statement. Trump’s “wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our constitution. The president leaves us no choice but to act,” she added. Minutes after Pelosi’s remarks, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a tweet that the White House looks “forward to a fair trial in the Senate.”
General Motors and LG Chem are investing up to $2.3 billion by 2023 to form a joint venture in Ohio for the production of battery cells for electric vehicles. Construction of the new battery cell plant is scheduled to begin in mid-2020 and will be one of the largest such factories in the world, employing as many as 1,100 workers. GM CEO Mary Barra said the new plant is “another important and significant step toward an all-electric future,” which will include at least 20 new all-electric models globally by 2023. “The new facility will help us scale production and dramatically enhance EV profitability and affordability,” Barra said a media event this morning. “The joint venture that we are signing today is more than just a collaboration,” LG Chem Vice Chairman and CEO Hak-Cheol Shin said at the same event. “It marks the beginning of a great journey that will create an emission-free society and transform the global automotive market into an eco-friendly era.”
Thursday started with more big management shakeups with United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz stepping down and Macy’s president Hal Lawton leaving to join Tractor Supply as its CEO. At United Airlines, Munoz will turn over day-to-day management of the airline in May 2020 to President Scott Kirby, who will become CEO. Munoz will at that time become Executive Chairman, taking over for Jane Garvey who is retiring from the board. “With United in a stronger position than ever, now is the right time to begin the process of turning over the baton to a new leader,” Munoz said in a statement. As for Macy’s, Lawton is resigning, effective Friday, and will start at Tractor Supply on January 13. “Hal has made significant contributions to the business over the past two years, including improving the Macy’s operational cadence,” said Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette in a statement. “Hal also helped us build an excellent team and, with their leadership, I’m confident that Macy’s will continue strong execution through Holiday 2019 and beyond.”
Dollar General shares are trading higher this morning after the discount retailer posted better-than-expected earnings and raised its full-year forecast. The dollar store operator reported earnings per share of $1.42, compared to analysts’ estimates for earnings per share of $1.38. “We are pleased with another quarter of strong performance across the business,” said Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos. “The quarter was highlighted by our best customer traffic and same-store sales increases in nearly five years, as well as double-digit growth in both operating profit and diluted” earnings per share. While Kroger shares are down nearly -4% following a Q3 earnings miss. The grocer reported a profit of $0.47 per share on sales of $28 billion, while the Street had forecast a profit of $0.49 per share on sales of $28.2 billion.
Stocks We’re Watching
Panasonic Corp (OTC: PCRFY): Panasonic shares are up more than 6% in the last week following the Japanese electronics maker announcing it had agreed to acquire the heat pump business unit of Kauko Oy. Kauko has been Panasonic’s exclusive distributor of heat pumps in Finland since 1988, and after the acquisition, Kauko will remain the exclusive distributor of other Panasonic business to business products and solutions in the country.
Aurinia Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: AUPH): Shares of this biotech stock are currently up nearly 94% today after its phase three trial for its voclosporin (VCS) candidate posted positive efficacy and safety results for the treatment of lupus nephritis. “The data were better than we expected,” said Cantor Fitzgerald biotech analyst Alethia Young. “We think that shares will be up at least 300-400% based on this news. If we conservatively assume VCS is a $1B drug, we think that investors could put a 3-4x revenue multiple on the company (so $3-4B).”
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