Wall Street is waiting for the Fed to blink first

By CNN Business

Updated 5:12 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021
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4:06 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite notch new records

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

It was another record-breaking day on Wall Street after all. Following a lackluster start to the day, stocks finished moderately higher and both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite rose to fresh all-time highs.

The S&P and the Nasdaq both closed up 0.2%.

The Dow finished 0.1%, or 39 points, higher.

1:35 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

How beauty became self-care during the pandemic: Beautycounter CEO

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

That Delta variant isn't going anywhere, and masks are back. What does that mean for beauty businesses? People spend more money on products for their eyes, according to Gregg Renfrew, founder and CEO of clean beauty business Beautycounter.

Even though people mostly stayed at home since the pandemic started, Beautycounter has been growing, Renfrew said on the CNN Business digital live show Markets Now.

"We were very fortunate to enjoy significant growth year-over-year during the entire pandemic," she said. "I think at a time where people were trying to protect the health and safe of their families, trying to take care of themselves, skin care was really important part of people's routines."

Private equity firm Carlyle took a stake in the business earlier this year, valuing the company at $1 billion.

"We were thrilled to jump in their platform," Renfrew said. "Our partnership with them is really going to be amplifying everything that we've already been doing really well," such as focusing on direct-to-consumer strategy.

But the company isn't immune to some of the pandemic perils, and it has felt supply chain squeezes in manufacturing and shortages in raw materials.

1:43 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Boston Beer downgraded because of 'seltzer's summer slump'

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

Sam Adams owner Boston Beer is "truly" having a terrible year. Shares of Boston Beer (SAM), which also owns the hard seltzer brand Truly, fell 5% Wednesday after an analyst at Cowen downgraded the stock to an "underperform" rating. That's essentially a sell.

Boston Beer has now plunged more than 40% this year. The company warned in July that alcoholic seltzer, a low calorie drink that became increasingly popular with millennials, was losing some of its fizz. More competition is coming, too.

That's why Cowen's Vivien Azer slashed her outlook for the stock from $825 to just $400 a share. That's 30% below the current price and is the lowest price target on Wall Street for SAM.

Azer wrote in her report that "seltzer's summer slump" may not end anytime soon either. "The category is slowing more dramatically," than she had originally expected.

Not even a splashy ad campaign with red hot pop superstar Dua Lipa has been enough to save Truly's sales. We guess that she and Boston Beer didn't create something phenomenal after all. Don't you agree?

1:18 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

'It feels really uncomfortable to invest right now' strategist says

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

It's a weird time to be an investor right now.

Stocks are on pace for more record highs today but there is underlying anxiety about the Federal Reserve changing its tune and rolling back its market-supporting asset purchases.

"It feels really uncomfortable to invest right now," said Kristen Bitterly, regional head of investments for North America at Citi Private Bank. "We've have 50 days [this year] where the S&P 500 has hit records, so we should be happy. But this lack of volatility is making investors uncomfortable."

The S&P has doubled since March -- it's fastest pace since 1932, according to Bitterly. She thinks the trajectory for the market is still going higher, but this time with volatility as part of the mix.

That said, there is a lot going on underneath the surface, not everything is doing as well as large-cap US equities, Bitterly added.

"One of the challenges is that the easy money has been made," she told Alison Kosik on the CNN Business digital live show Markets Now.

The Fed is part of this expected volatility, and Bitterly expects some commentary regarding tapering from the central bank by September.

For investors wanting to diversify outside of US equities, Bitterly is pointing across the Atlantic for the solution.

"The UK solves a lot of problems for investors right now," she said, pointing at lower valuations, higher yields "and there's an earnings growth story here, too."

1:59 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Delta is weighing on the economy, inflation and maybe the Fed's taper timeline

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

The Delta variant of Covid-19 is showing its ugly face in US economic data.

"We do already see people pull back," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, calling the highly infectious virus variant a "fear factor" during an interview on CNN Business' "Markets Now" live show.

"Unfortunately this particular wave, the Delta variant, is really a line between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated," she added.

Even nations that did well in earlier outbreaks are now struggling with infections, causing additional supply chain disruptions, Swonk said. And the world is already in a supply chain squeeze that is pushing up prices.

That raises the question -- will these higher prices persist? Swonk herself thinks that that's possible, with higher inflation lasting into 2022.

Investors and economists are awaiting the views of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on these issues. Powell will speak at the Jackson Hole Symposium Friday, which was moved online at the last minute.

"What the chairman has to do is really navigate these very uncertain times," Swonk said. "The timeline on tapering and rate hikes could be contingent or delayed depending on the Delta variant."

12:16 p.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Stocks are slightly higher at midday

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

It's lunchtime and we're seeing green arrows across the board on Wall Street. All three major indexes are trading moderately higher and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite are on track for record highs.

The S&P is trading 0.3% higher, while the Nasdaq is only up 0.1%.

The Dow is up 0.4%, or 125 points.

10:48 a.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Dick's Sporting Goods soars to a record high

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

The decision by Dick's Sporting Goods to stop selling guns at many of its stores in the wake of more mass shootings in America has not slowed down the retail giant one bit.

Dick's (DKS) reported record earnings and sales, which rose more than 20% from a year ago, for the second quarter Wednesday, news that sent the stock surging nearly 15% to an all-time high. Shares are now up more than 130% this year. The company also boosted its earnings outlook for 2021.

Dick's is rewarding its shareholders too. The company said it was boosting its stock buyback plan, raising its quarterly dividend by 21% and also paying out a special one-time dividend of $5.50 a share to all investors.

The solid results are also a sign that the company's leadership transition plan is clearly working.

Ed Stack, who made the decision to cut back on firearms following the deadly mass shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018, stepped down as CEO in February. He handed the reins to president Lauren Hobart, who has been with the company since 2011 and was a 14-year veteran at Pepsi (PEP) before joining Dick's as its chief marketing officer. Stack is now executive chairman.

9:36 a.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Stocks inch higher

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Wall Street is holding back its excitement a day after surging to new records.

The Dow opened up 0.1.%, or 17 points, but turned red in the first minutes of trading.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite also both rose 0.1%.

To be sure, both the Nasdaq and the S&P could still hit new all-time highs after the prior session’s records. The Nasdaq also soared above 15,000 point for the first time Tuesday.

In economic data, durable goods orders for July declined at a slower pace than expected.

9:20 a.m. ET, August 25, 2021

Durable goods orders fall less than expected in July

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Durable goods orders -- machines, equipment and many other big things -- fell less than economists had predicted in July. Orders declined 0.1%, compared with the 0.3% drop expected.

The drop "was entirely due to a plunge in the ever-volatile commercial aircraft component," said Andrew Hunter, senior US economist at Capital Economics, in a note to clients. "The underlying details suggest that growth in business equipment investment will slow in the third quarter, but it remains strong by past standards."

Excluding transport goods, orders rose by 0.7%, more than than 0.5% penciled in.