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12:31 p.m. ET, January 18, 2019

Consumer sentiment hits lowest point since Trump took office

University of Michigan just released its survey of consumer sentiment for January and it showed that consumers are nervous.

Sentiment tumbled by 7.7% to 90.7% for January — down from 98.3% last month. That's the lowest level since President Donald Trump took office. Consumers' expectations for the future also dropped 10 points from December.

"The loss was due to a host of issues including the partial government shutdown, the impact of tariffs, instabilities in financial markets, the global slowdown, and the lack of clarity about monetary policies," Michigan's analysts wrote

But as CNN Business' Lydia DePillis notes, sentiment doesn't tell the whole story:

A dive in consumer expectations may negatively impact consumer spending, which has been robust in recent months — but it will be impossible to know whether that's happening until the government reopens, since the statistics are published by the now-shuttered Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Our Paul R. LaMonica adds that a drop in sentiment isn't necessarily anything to worry about:

For what it's worth, the markets are up today.

12:33 p.m. ET, January 18, 2019

US markets leap (again) on China trade war rumors

Another day, another report on China trade talks that's exciting Wall Street.

The Dow jumped 360 points, or 1.5%, in midday trading on Friday. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq also climbed 1.4% each.

Markets gathered steam after Bloomberg News reported that China has offered to go on a "six-year buying spree" to boost imports from America. The goal would be to zero out China's massive trade surplus with the United States by 2024, the report said.

Wall Street remains very sensitive to developments on the US-China trade talks. Stocks briefly soared on Thursday on a separate report suggesting the US could ratchet back tariffs on China in a bid to calm markets and accelerate negotiations.

Boosted by hopes of progress on the trade war, all three major US indexes have climbed nearly 3% on the week.

10:26 a.m. ET, January 18, 2019

The cool kids are still buying Vans

Vans sneakers are flying off the shelves. And that's great news for owner VF Corp.

The company reported earnings and revenue that topped forecasts Friday, led by a 25% surge in sales of Vans footwear. VF Corp. (VFC) also lifted its outlook for this year. The stock surged more than 10% on the news.

Vans is VF Corp.'s star brand. But it isn't the only one that's doing well.

  • Sales of North Face outdoor apparel were up 14% from a year ago.
  • Revenue from China popped 18%, VF Corp. is doing well in China too — despite concerns about tariffs and a slowdown in the Chinese economy.
  • Digital sales were up 24% in the quarter, signaling that VF Corp. has figured out a way to compete with Amazon (AMZN) and other online retailers.

The success of VF Corp. has led to some chatter on Wall Street that the company may look to buy Skechers. Shares of Skechers (SKX) shot up 6% Thursday on merger talk, although some analysts are skeptical. During a conference call with analysts, VF CEO Steve Rendle said that M&A will remain a top priority but that people shouldn't always believe the rumors they read.

9:40 a.m. ET, January 18, 2019

Wall Street looks to end the week on a strong note

The Dow jumped 150 points at Friday’s open. The S&P 500 gained 0.7%. The Nasdaq advanced 0.6%.  

All three major indexes are up more than 2% on the week, led by the financial sector.

But Tesla (TSLA) dropped 6% on Friday after CEO Elon Musk announced job cuts and warned of a softer profit in the fourth quarter.

And Netflix (NFLX) retreated 2% despite adding nearly 9 million new paying subscribers. 

8:39 a.m. ET, January 18, 2019

Netflix shares slip after earnings

Netflix (NFLX) is getting bigger, but its stock is shrinking Friday.

The streaming giant dropped more than 3% in premarket trading following a mixed fourth-quarter earnings report Thursday.

Netflix is rapidly approaching 150 million global subscribers and it beat earnings estimates, but investors aren't thrilled that it posted below-than-expected revenue.

Down, but still up. Its stock has soared about 40% since late December despite Friday's premarket losses:

10:46 a.m. ET, January 18, 2019

What's in Elon Musk's letter to Tesla staff

CEO Elon Musk told Tesla staff on Friday that the company is slashing its workforce by 7%. But that's not all he had to say. Here are some additional highlights:

  • Musk acknowledged that other companies "can offer a better work-life balance" than Tesla. That's because they are "larger and more mature" or in industries that are less "voraciously competitive," he said.
  • He said the company expects to turn a profit in Q4, but it would be less than the $312 million surprise profit reported in Q3.
  • Tesla will make the job cuts while increasing the Model 3 production rate and tweaking its manufacturing process. The company wants to offer a $35,000 version of the Model 3 this year.
  • He did not mention China. Tesla (TSLA) broke ground on a huge factory in Shanghai earlier this month. Yet auto sales have weakened in the country amid slowing economic growth.
9:21 a.m. ET, January 18, 2019

Tiffany & Co. reports lackluster holiday sales

Tiffany & Co. (TIF) says last year's holiday sales fell "short of our expectations."

The luxury jeweler says same-store sales declined 2% and global net sales slipped 1% for the last two months of 2018. It blames the drops on fewer sales to foreign tourists and lower demand from local shoppers in the Americas and Europe.

The company says it believes those customers "may have been influenced more than expected by external events, uncertainties and market volatilities.”

Tiffany reports fourth-quarter earnings in March. The company also says it expects its 2019 global net sales to increase by a "low-single-digit percentage" compared to last year.

It's a tarnished time for mall diamonds. Signet, which owns Jared, Zales and Kay jewelers, reported Thursday a 1.3% drop in same-store sales during the holidays. The less-than-glittering guidance sent the stock down 20%.

7:42 a.m. ET, January 18, 2019

Tesla slashes jobs and stock sinks

Tesla (TSLA) shares fell nearly 8% in premarket trade after it announced plans to cut its full-time workforce by 7% and said Q4 profit was weaker than Q3.

CEO Elon Musk told workers about the job cuts Friday in a letter that Tesla posted online.

As the company works to increase Model 3 production and reduce prices, it will only retain the most critical temps and contractors, Musk said.

He also wrote that Tesla is "up against massive, entrenched competitors" and must work "much harder than other manufacturers to survive while building affordable, sustainable products."

6:18 a.m. ET, January 18, 2019

Markets check before the bell

US stock futures are pointing higher.

US stocks were helped by a Wall Street Journal report Thursday that said the Trump administration was debating whether to lift tariffs on China in order to calm markets and encourage Beijing to make concessions on trade.

The Dow advanced 0.7% on Thursday, while the S&P 500 gained 0.8% and the Nasdaq rose 0.7%.

A Treasury spokesperson told CNN that neither Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin nor top US trade envoy Robert Lighthizer had "made any recommendations to anyone with respect to tariffs or other parts of the negotiation."

"This is an ongoing process with the Chinese that is nowhere near completion," the spokesperson added.