What's moving markets today: January 29, 2020

By CNN Business

Updated 4:52 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020
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4:11 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Dow, Nasdaq end higher for second-straight day

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

US stocks finished mixed, as the Dow and the Nasdaq Composite marked their second positive days in a row.

The Dow closed little changed in positive territory, up 12 points.

The Nasdaq Composite closed up 0.1%.

The S&P 500 finished 0.1% lower.

Earnings season is in full swing, and solid results have helped investor sentiment that was hurt by the coronavirus outbreak earlier in the week.

Apple (AAPL), which reported earnings yesterday, hit an all-time high share price today. Microsoft (MSFT) and Facebook (FB) also hit record highs today, ahead of their results after the closing bell.

3:11 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Fed 'very carefully monitoring' coronavirus outbreak

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

The Federal Reserve is keeping a close eye on the coronavirus outbreak, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters during the central bank's press conference.

Powell called the outbreak a "very serious issue" that would likely cause some disruption in China and elsewhere, adding that the bank is "very carefully monitoring the situation."

That said, there is still a lot of uncertainty about how far the virus might spread and what the macroeconomic repercussions will be, Powell said in response to a question from CNN's Donna Borak.

While a near-term impact on Chinese output is likely, "we'll have to see what the effect is globally," Powell said.

Investors worry that the virus outbreak could weigh on global growth this year, as China is the world's second-largest economy. Excluding the outbreak's potential impact, analysts expect 2020 worldwide economic growth to tick up as global manufacturing bottoms out. Supportive financial conditions around the globe and the elimination of a hard Brexit risk are also expected to help the world's economy.

2:49 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020

No surprises from Fed but a subtle word change in its statement

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

The Federal Reserve's decision Wednesday to hold interest rates steady comes as no shock. But there was a tweak to the language in its policy statement that could be significant.

The Fed said Wednesday that consumer spending was rising at a "moderate" pace. In December, the central bank referred to the rate of spending as being "strong."

That ever-so-subtle shift could be a signal that Fed chair Jerome Powell is concerned about the potential impact of the coronavirus outbreak and lingering effects from the US trade war with China and other nations. Powell cited coronavirus worries as a global economic risk in his press conference.

If anything, it's a more dovish stance that suggests the Fed is likely to keep rates at low levels for the foreseeable future. Inflation would have to pick up at a much more dramatic rate than it has currently to justify a Fed hike any time soon,

"The market should be okay with this. Prior to the coronavirus, people have been circling in a potential hawkish pivot by the Fed. But that’s been put on hold," said Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist with INTL FCStone. "The focus is on the job market and wage growth."

2:07 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Fed keeps rates steady in first meeting of 2020

From CNN's Donna Borak

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday held interest rates steady despite renewed pressure from President Donald Trump to make deeper cuts.

Policy makers unanimously agreed following their two-day meeting in Washington to maintain rates hovering between 1.5% and 1.75% as they pointed to continued signs of a strong economy.

Citing solid job gains and household spending that continues to rise moderately, Fed officials deemed plans to hold rates as "appropriate." They added that they would continue to monitor sluggish inflation, which has remained stubbornly below the Fed's target of 2%, and geopolitical risks that could impact the US economy.

Read the full story here.

1:17 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020

'Apple's best days are behind it,' investor says

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Apple's (AAPL) better-than-expected earnings didn't impress everyone.

According to Rupal Bhansali, chief investment officer and portfolio manager of international and global investments at Ariel Investments, the company will have less to offer investors going forward.

"I think the best days of Apple are behind it and not ahead of it," Bhansali told Alison Kosik on the CNN Business' digital live show Markets Now.

"People think of it as a technology company, when they're really a consumer electronics company," Bhansali said, adding that Apple did well in the last quarter thanks to buoyant iPhone sales. "If the iPhone doesn't sell this company misses earnings."

But services, such as its Apple Music platform, are not proprietary to the company, Bhansali said. This will make its earnings vulnerable going forward.

1:24 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Will the coronavirus hurt Apple?

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

The coronavirus' outbreak is bound to have an impact on companies as the infection continues to spread.

Some 15% of Apple (AAPL) revenue, for example, comes from China. In addition to the impact the virus could have on its sales in China, the company's supply chain -- including businesses that make Apple parts and components -- could shut down over fears of the virus.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company has closed its store in Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, according to CNN Business' own Paul La Monica.

The company's better-than-expected fourth quarter earnings, reported late yesterday, "of course didn't show any concerns about the coronavirus just yet," La Monica said.

Any companies with a presence in China right now "obviously have to tell their investors that they're concerned about this outbreak, but they don't want to scare people with information that could turn out to be a little hyperbolic," he said.

Apple isn't the only company with concerns about the financial cost of the virus outbreak.

Other US businesses with a lot of exposure to China include 3M (MMM), Caterpillar (CAT) and Starbucks (SBUX).

12:52 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020

The market is fragile

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Solid corporate earnings, worries about the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak and a Federal Reserve monetary policy update later today are pushing and pulling the market in opposite directions.

"The market is fragile, let's be clear," Peter Tuchman, floor broker for Quattro M. Securities at the New York Stock Exchange, told Alison Kosik in CNN Business' digital live show Markets Now.

"Let's see what happens with the virus," Tuchman added.

Markets sold off Monday over fear surrounding the coronavirus' outbreak.

12:30 p.m. ET, January 29, 2020

Fidelity takes on Robinhood with fractional trading

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

Most major online brokers have cut commissions to zero. Now it looks like the rush is on to launch so-called "fractional" or "dollar-based" investing. Robinhood kicked things off in December and now mutual fund and brokerage giants plans to offer dollar-based trading too.

The new Fidelity service, like the one from Robinhood, is now available on Fidelity's mobile app and lets investors buy a small piece of a stock or ETF for a set amount -- even if they can't afford a whole share.

There are plenty of popular stocks that cost a lot for average investors. One share of Google parent Alphabet (GOOGL), for example, would set you back about $1,450. Amazon (AMZN) trades at nearly $1,865 for one share. Chipotle's (CMG) stock price is just under $900. That's a lot of burrito bowls.

It will be interesting to see if Charles Schwab (SCHW) and merger partner TD Ameritrade (AMTD) and struggling E-Trade (ETFC) now follow suit.

Competition for customers in the brokerage industry is brutal -- and it's clear that once one or two industry leaders introduce a new service, everyone else has to quickly follow suit if they want to hold on to clients.

11:42 a.m. ET, January 29, 2020

This is what cord-cutting is doing to AT&T

From CNN Business' David Goldman

AT&T, which owns CNN's parent company, showed Wednesday just how much cord-cutting is changing its business.

  • 945,000 video subscriber losses
  • Entertainment sales fell about 9%
  • WarnerMedia sales fell 3%

So what's going on here?

AT&T's WarnerMedia business is transitioning to a world where people pay a la carte for their favorite shows and videos (rather than cable service like AT&T's U-Verse or TV Now).

So it's making a big investment in HBO Max, a Netflix/Disney+/Prime Video/Hulu/Apple TV+ competitor. To do that, AT&T has to hoard its own content and license other shows and movies.

That's an expensive proposition. Without that HBO Max investment, WarnerMedia's sales would have been up 10% last quarter, AT&T said.

AT&T is gambling that its investment will pay off for the long-haul. In the meantime, it's taking a hit. The stock's down 3%.