What's moving markets today: March 1, 2019

By CNN Business

Updated 9:49 a.m. ET, March 4, 2019
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1:50 p.m. ET, March 1, 2019

Kroger sinks on fears of more Amazon competition

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

Amazon is already a major player in the grocery business. But the Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the company may open even more supermarkets in major cities. And that's spooking investors in supermarket leader Kroger (KR). Shares tumbled 5% at one point before recovering a little bit.

Other retailers with big grocery businesses, such as Walmart (WMT), Target (TGT) and Costco (COST), were down slightly too.

But it seems odd investors would be so nervous. It's not really news. Amazon (AMZN) is already a major player in groceries -- both with physical Whole Foods stores and online deliveries.

Still, one hedge fund manager noted that it's just more bad news for smaller grocers like Weis Markets (WMK). Its stock fell Friday. So did shares of Sprouts Farmers Market (SFM).

12:39 p.m. ET, March 1, 2019

Market rally fades; Dow on track to end nine-week win streak

From CNN Business' Matt Egan

The rally on Wall Street is fading a bit as the week draws to a close.

  • In midday trading, the Dow was up about 60 points. That's well off the session high of 228 points.
  • The S&P 500 gained 0.3%.
  • And the Nasdaq was up 0.5%.

If the market closes around these levels, the Dow would finish slightly lower on the week, snapping its nine-week winning streak. The Nasdaq, however, is on pace to advance for the 10th week in a row.

The retail sector is the big bright spot on Wall Street on Friday.

Gap (GPS) surged 18% on its breakup plan, while Victoria's Secret owner L Brands (LB) jumped 7% despite its weak guidance. Victoria's Secret announced plans late Thursday to shut 53 stores. Strong sales also lifted Foot Locker (FL) 5% to the highest level in nearly two years.

Energy stocks (XLE) also advanced despite a 2% drop in US oil prices to $55.88 a barrel. Baker Hughes (BHGE), EOG Resources (EOG) and Hess (HES) jumped 2% apiece.

10:37 a.m. ET, March 1, 2019

Look how high the Gap is surging

From CNN Business' Jordan Valinsky

Shares of the Gap (GPS) are surging nearly 18% in early trading:

  • Why? Investors are thrilled that the Gap is splitting into two companies: One will contain Old Navy, while the other business will comprise of the Gap, Banana Republic and other brands, including Athleta and Hill City.
11:06 a.m. ET, March 1, 2019

Caesars board gets a makeover from Icahn

From CNN Business' Jordan Valinsky

Caesars Entertainment's board is being shaken up thanks to Carl Ichan.

Last month, the billionaire investor disclosed a 9.78% stake in the resort company, and today Caesars (CZR) announced it has struck an agreement with him to appoint three new directors to its board.

Ichan made it clear in a new statement that he's still pushing Caesars to sell itself:

I believe the best path forward for Caesars requires a thorough strategic process to sell or merge the company to further develop its already strong regional presence, which will allow Caesars to continue to take advantage of the Caesars Rewards program bringing more and more players into Caesars' Vegas market."
  • Shares are up 2% in early trading.
10:12 a.m. ET, March 1, 2019

Dow pops 200 points as stocks race into March; Gap goes straight up on breakup plan

From CNN Business' Matt Egan

 Wall Street's hot start to 2019 continues.

  • The Dow jumped 200 points, or 0.8%, on Friday morning
  • The S&P 500 advanced 0.7%
  • And the Nasdaqgained 0.7%

The rally comes after the S&P 500 posted its best two-month start to a year since 1991, according to Bespoke Investment Group.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq is on track for a 10th straight weekly gain. That hasn’t happened since 1999, according to Bespoke.

US markets were led higher on Friday by gains overseas, with China’s Shanghai Composite soaring nearly 2%.

8:43 a.m. ET, March 1, 2019

NYC officials plead with Jeff Bezos to win back HQ2

From CNN Business' Jordan Valinsky

Amazon's abrupt decision to pull its HQ2 from New York City still has some people angry.

First, the state's Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo is "working intensely behind the scenes to lure the company back," reports the New York Times. He's reportedly made "multiple" phone calls with Amazon execs and even offered to help them get the necessary governmental approvals to move forward.

Cuomo admitted he's talked with Amazon (AMZN) to reconsider its decision, but hasn't heard of "any changes" about the company's decision, according to his office.

In addition, top business leaders wrote an open letter to Amazon execs. It will be published in Friday's edition of the Times.

The letter, which was written by the nonprofit organization Partnership for New York City, said Cuomo will take "personal responsibility for the project's state approval." Signatories include the CEOs from JetBlue, Hearst, MasterCard and Deloitte.

Read the letter below:

8:32 a.m. ET, March 1, 2019

Foot Locker had a gangbusters holiday

From CNN Business' Nathaniel Meyersohn

Payless is going out of business for good. But Foot Locker (FL) is booming.

Foot Locker's sales at stores open at least year surged 9.7% during its most recent quarter compared to last year, the company said on Friday. It's profit also increased from a year ago.

The performance was one of the best across retail last holiday, and Foot Locker's stock jumped 15% in pre-market trading.

Foot Locker's success is a sign of how well Nike (NKE) is doing right now. Close to 70% of Foot Locker's sales come from Nike. In its annual securities, Foot Locker says it's "highly dependent on Nike."

The company also works closely with Nike and other top suppliers like Adidas on exclusive sneaker launches to draw customers.

Investors are also excited about Foot Locker's recent investments to position itself for the future.

In February, Foot Locker invested $100 million in online sneaker resale company Goat Group, which owns Flight Club. It also took a minority stake in Rockets of Awesome, the kids' online clothing retailer. Foot Locker plans to open Rockets of Awesome clothing stores within its Kids Foot Lockers

6:49 a.m. ET, March 1, 2019

Tesla shares sink after warning of layoffs and store closings

From CNN Business' Jackie Wattles

Shares in Tesla (TSLAdropped almost 4% in extended trading after CEO Elon Musk said the company would close stores and lay off workers to produce a cheaper Model 3.

Tesla has long promised a version of its Model 3 sedan that would cost $35,000. The car is "excruciatingly difficult" to make at the reduced price, Musk said.

To achieve the $35,000 price tag, Tesla said it was closing stores and shifting sales worldwide to online only.

Tesla declined to say how many of its stores will close or how many jobs will be affected. Musk said a "small number of stores in high-traffic locations" will remain open as galleries and information centers.

When asked by a reporter whether he anticipated Tesla will turn a profit during the first quarter of 2019, Musk said it isn't likely — but that Tesla could be in the black by Q2.

6:40 a.m. ET, March 1, 2019

Gap soars on company split

From CNN Business' Nathaniel Meyersohn

Gap (GPS) stock skyrocketed 25% in after-hours trading after it said it would split up with Old Navy. 

The two are breaking into two companies after trending in opposite directions for years.

  • One business will contain Old Navy.
  • The other yet-to-be-named entity, currently called NewCo, will include Gap, Banana Republic and other brands, including Athleta and Hill City.

This move is designed to allow Old Navy — which has grown to $8 billion in annual sales since it opened its first store in 1994 — to expand on its own.

Meanwhile, the company can consolidate its older brands, like Gap and Banana, with newer ones like Athleta and Hill City. NewCo will have about $9 billion in annual sales.