What's moving markets today: March 1, 2019

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11:06 a.m. ET, March 1, 2019

Caesars board gets a makeover from Icahn

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

 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

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

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

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

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.

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

Markets check before the bell

US stock futures are pointing higher this morning.

European markets opened with gains, following a positive session in Asia.

Chinese stocks finished the week on a positive note after the Trump administration shelved its threat to sharply increase tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese exports. There was also some positive economic data out of China.

The Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq each dropped 0.3% yesterday. Despite the losses, the three main markets all posted overall gains in February.

Looking ahead, Foot Locker (FL), Scripps (SSP), TEGNA (TGNA) and Tribune Media (TRCO) plan to post earnings before the open.

The US Bureau of Economic Analysis will also release its core personal consumption report for December at 8:30 a.m. ET. And the Institute of Supply Management will release manufacturing data at 10 a.m. ET.