What's moving markets today: March 26, 2019

4:59 p.m. ET, March 26, 2019

JCPenney finds a new financial chief

JCPenney (JCP) named a new CFO on Tuesday as chief executive Jill Soltau continues building a team to turn around the struggling retailer.

Bill Wafford, most recently chief financial officer for The Vitamin Shoppe (VSI), will take the job beginning on April 8. JCPenney's previous CFO resigned in September after only 14 months on the job and was replaced by an interim chief.

JCPenney's stock ticked up 2% in after-hours trading -- to around $1.50 a share.

Soltau, who took over as CEO last year, has shaken things up at JCPenney. She is installing new leaders, changing the retailer's merchandise strategy and closing stores.

In a shift, JCPenney recently said it would stop selling appliances and most furniture. It has also marked down inventory to clear out the glut of clothes and handbags sitting on its shelves.

Going forward, Soltau has said JCPenney plans to focus on women's clothes, including athletic brands and the booming plus-size market, and home goods.

JCPenney also plans to close 18 under-performing department stores in 2019, as well as nine home and furniture stores. But it still has more than 800 stores around the country.

4:14 p.m. ET, March 26, 2019

Dow rallies 141 points even as Apple retreats

US stocks finished solidly higher on Tuesday, shaking off last week's recession jitters.

  • The Dow advanced 141 points, though the index had been up nearly 275 points earlier in the session
  • The S&P 500 and Nasdaq gained 0.7% apiece

Energy stocks led the way higher, with Anadarko Petroleum (APC), ConocoPhillips (COP) and Hess (HES) advancing sharply. US oil prices climbed nearly 2% to $59.94 a barrel.

Carnival (CCL) tumbled 9% after the cruise ship operator dimmed its outlook due to higher fuel costs and currency fluctuations. Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) surged 22% on a report that three different activist funds are pushing to oust the struggling retailer’s board of directors.

Apple (AAPL) declined 1% after a US trade judge recommended banning some iPhones that are imported to the United States due to a patent dispute with Qualcomm (QCOM).

3:40 p.m. ET, March 26, 2019

Judge recommends blocking some iPhones from entering the United States

A US trade judge on Tuesday recommended banning some iPhones that are imported to the United States. Although Apple is an American company, iPhones are assembled overseas and shipped to the United States and other countries.

ITC Administrative Law Judge MaryJoan McNamara found that Apple violated one of Qualcomm's patents in some iPhones. In her two-page ruling, McNamara did not specify which iPhones she thought must be banned from the United States.

The ruling will not take effect until both the full ITC panel and President Donald Trump review McNamara's decision. Presidents have overturned import bans before, including in 2013 when President Barack Obama overruled an ITC court decision to ban certain iPhones. The ITC ruled in that case that Apple had violated some of Samsung's patents.

Qualcomm and Apple are currently embroiled in patent disputes in courts across the world.

Apple's (AAPL) stock was little changed on the news. Qualcomm's (QCOM) stock rose 2%.

12:48 p.m. ET, March 26, 2019

Energy stocks power Wall Street higher

The energy sector is up 2%, with major oil companies including ConocoPhillips (COP), Anadarko Petroleum (APC) and Concho Resources (CXO) all climbing more than 3%.

Here's a check of the markets:

  • The Dow is up 165 points, or 0.65%
  • Nasdaq is up 64 points, or 0.85%
  • S&P is up 22 points, or 0.80%

Here's a check of some other stocks:

  • Carnival Cruises (CCL) is sinking 8% after it cut its guidance.
  • Viacom (VIAB) is up nearly 10% after it affirmed its revenue guidance.
  • Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) is up 27% as activist investors plot a takeover of its board.
11:20 a.m. ET, March 26, 2019

Wayfair is opening its first, full-service store

Wayfair (W) is opening its first, full-service store at a mall in Massachusetts.

The store will open in the fall and aims to "bring the Wayfair brand to life in an engaging format to delight customers with convenience and ease," the company said in a release.

It has previously experimented with pop-up mall locations and operates an outlet store in Kentucky.

Wayfair is the latest online retailer to open an offline location: Amazon (AMZN), mattress startup Casper and makeup company Glossier have all recently opened physical stores in an attempt to build brand loyalty and gain exposure among new shoppers.

10:37 a.m. ET, March 26, 2019

Carnival's stock sinks 9% on weak earnings

Carnival Cruises (CCL) hit a patch of rough seas following a rocky earnings report. The stock fell as much as 9% in early trading:

  • Higher fuel costs and a strong US dollar have forced the company to cut its outlook.
  • Today's losses halved its year-to-date gains: The stock is now up 7% for the year.
10:22 a.m. ET, March 26, 2019

50-50 chance of a Fed rate cut by September

What a difference a few months (and an inverted yield curve) make!

Not that long ago, investors were worried the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates too many times in 2019 -- and that those hikes could derail the US economy and bull market.

But as Treasury yields flash recession signs, investors are now betting the Fed will save the day with a rate cut.

According to the CME's FedWatch tool, the market is pricing in a nearly 50-50 chance that the Fed will lower rates at its September meeting.

Still, any euphoria about lower rates could soon fade. Analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods pointed out that the historical performance of the overall market -- and bank stocks in particular -- is mixed during times of lower rates.

"Credit cycles, the overall rate of economic growth, unemployment rates, trade deficits, the condition of the housing market and inflation expectations are just several of the many macroeconomic factors that may outweigh expected reactions to a rate change," the KBW analysts said.

In other words, if the Fed is cutting rates because the economy is slowing down, that's not great news.