News Archive

Wall Street cedes ground as oil decline deepens

Wall Street fell on Monday, hurt by a steep drop in oil prices as well as a dip in Apple shares, pushing the SP 500 back into negative territory for 2015.

The SP 500 energy sector .SPNY lost 1.79 percent, easily the poorest performer as a 3 percent drop in oil prices led investors to unload shares of Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), down 0.73 percent, and Chevron (CVX.N), which fell 1.84 percent. [O/R]

U.S. stock indexes have closely tracked crude prices in the past several weeks.

Following the U.S. Federal Reserve’s first rate hike in almost a decade this month, the SP 500 is marginally lower for the year and the Dow Jones industrial average is almost 2 percent weaker, disappointing investors hoping for a last-minute rally.

“The interest rate issue has been settled and markets have incorporated Fed action. But you have energy and tax loss harvesting moving markets back and forth in these last few weeks,” said Tim Courtney, chief investment officer at Exencial Wealth Advisors, which oversees $1.4 billion in assets.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI ended down 0.14 percent at 17,528.47 and the SP 500 .SPX lost 0.22 percent to 2,056.51. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC fell 0.15 percent to 5,040.99.

Apple (AAPL.O) lost 1.12 percent and was the biggest drag on the SP and Nasdaq. The company’s stock has lost 9 percent in the past month with investors worried that annual iPhone sales could decline for the first time in 2016.

Six out of 10 SP sectors were lower, with consumer discretionary .SPLRCD up 0.26 percent and leading gainers thanks to a 1.87 percent rise in (AMZN.O).

Trading volumes are expected be subdued through the week, which is likely to exacerbate volatility.

Valeant (VRX.N) fell 10.48 percent after the Canadian drugmaker said Chief Executive Michael Pearson was going on medical leave.

Fitbit (FIT.N) rose 3.29 percent after reports that the wearable gadget maker’s iOS app was the most downloaded after Christmas, suggesting strong holiday demand.

Dow component Walt Disney (DIS.N) gained 1.31 percent after the company’s latest Star Wars installment topped $1 billion in ticket sales.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,924 to 1,172. On the Nasdaq, 1,850 issues fell and 1,011 rose.

The SP 500 index showed four new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 41 new highs and 44 new lows.

Volume on the U.S. exchanges was 4.9 billion shares, compared to a 7.4 billion average over the last 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

(This story has been corrected to add the word “in” in the lead paragraph.)

(Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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Valeant selects trio to fill in for ailing CEO, shares dive

NEW YORK Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc (VRX.TO)(VRX.N) on Monday said a group of company executives will immediately take over for its chief executive officer until he returns from medical leave, news that sent its shares tumbling 10 percent.

The Canadian company said CEO Michael Pearson, 56, was being treated for severe pneumonia.

The decision to put leadership in the hands of three executives was unusual, experts said, and suggested a lack of confidence in any one company executive to temporarily fill Pearson’s shoes.

A spokeswoman for Valeant, based in Laval, Quebec, declined to comment on the decision to appoint a trio to take over for Pearson.

Valeant and Pearson have come under pressure for steep price increases on some drugs and for close ties to a specialty pharmacy that used aggressive methods to overcome insurer barriers to reimbursing its medicines.

Pearson was hospitalized with the lung condition on Friday. The company spokeswoman on Monday declined to say whether he had experienced any complications or when he might return, adding it was honoring a family request for privacy. The spokeswoman also declined to comment on Pearson’s medical history.

“It is an inopportune time for their leader to take sick leave after the company has faced credibility issues in recent months,” said Morningstar analyst Damien Conover. “If the company was on solid footing, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue.”

Valeant said its board has created an “office of the Chief Executive Officer,” which will include General Counsel Robert Chai-Onn, Group Chairman Ari Kellen and Chief Financial Officer Robert Rosiello.

The board also created a committee to oversee and support the office of the CEO, including lead independent director Robert Ingram, president of ValueAct Capital Mason Morfit and former Valeant CFO Howard Schiller.

Jerome Reisman, a partner in the law firm Reisman Peirez Reisman and Capobianco of Garden City, New York, said Valeant’s three-member CEO committee will likely prove too cumbersome.

“With all these kings they’re appointing to the troika, nobody will be able to make decisions,” said Reisman, a financial legal consultant to numerous drugmakers. “A committee on a committee just won’t work. You need a strong CEO.”

Dr. Bruce Hirsch, an infectious disease specialist at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, said the vast majority of patients with pneumonia fully recover thanks to effective antibiotics. But others are slow to recover and can be tired for months afterward, he said, particularly if they have pre-existing structural lung disease, including damage from emphysema, bronchitis, asthma and smoking.

He noted pneumonia can be caused by a range of bacteria, viruses, fungi, as well as inflammation, and in very severe cases can cause heart attacks or heart failure.

Pearson, who joined Valeant as CEO in 2010 after a 23-year career at consultancy McKinsey Co, has made rapid-fire acquisitions that greatly increased Valeant’s size and share price. But Valeant’s stock has plunged more than 60 percent since August, due largely to questions about the company’s marketing practices and the sustainability of its business model.

Investors have been turning up pressure on the Laval, Quebec-based company to provide a more detailed plan on how it will boost profits in 2016.

Under a deal announced this month, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) will take over many functions previously handled by specialty pharmacy Philidor Rx Services. Valeant cut ties with the Philidor in response to allegations of aggressive billing practices.

Valeant shares fell 10.5 percent to $102.14 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Additional reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta, Jeffrey Benkoe, David Gregorio and Leslie Adler)

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Whole Foods to pay $500,000 to resolve NY City overcharging probe

NEW YORK Whole Foods Market Inc (WFM.O) has agreed to pay $500,000 to resolve an investigation into whether the supermarket chain charged too much for some prepackaged foods at its New York City stores, a city agency announced on Monday.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs said the settlement also requires the company to adhere to standards aimed at preventing overcharging.

The department’s commissioner, Julie Menin, said the agreement “will help to ensure New Yorkers are better protected from overcharging.”

Whole Foods, which operates nine stores in the city – in Manhattan and Brooklyn – said the settlement was below the $1.5 million the agency demanded and would “put this issue behind us so that we can continue to focus our attention on providing our New York City customers with the highest level of quality and service.”

The Department of Consumer Affairs in June had announced an investigation of Whole Foods after finding its New York City stores routinely overstated the weight of prepackaged meat, dairy and other goods.

The overcharges ranged from 80 cents for a package of pecan panko to $14.84 for a package of coconut shrimp, according to the agency, which tested 80 types of food and found that all of them had mislabeled weight.

The co-chief executives of Whole Foods, Walter Robb and John Mackey, subsequently apologized in a YouTube video, saying they “made some mistakes.” The publicity that followed the probe hurt sales at the Austin, Texas-based chain.

As part of the settlement, the Department of Consumer Affairs said Whole Foods must conduct quarterly in-store audits at all its New York City stores.

If agency inspectors identify mislabled pre-packaged foods at a store, that store must immediately remove all mislabled products and Whole Foods must check the accuracy of pricing of that and 20 other products from the same department at all city stores, the department said.

Whole Foods must also implement and enforce policies preventing employees from estimating a package’s weight and conduct training for employees involved in that process, the department said.

Whole Foods said in a statement that the Department of Consumer Affairs, in announcing the deal, had “misrepresented this agreement,” saying the company had pre-existing programs that went “above and beyond” the agency’s requirements.

Whole Foods said the settlement states that “there was no evidence of systematic or intentional misconduct by anyone in the Northeast region or the rest of the company.”

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Leslie Adler)

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Equities pulled lower by oil, China concerns

NEW YORK Global equities were lower on Monday, pressured by another downdraft in oil prices and worries over growth in China’s economy, while the holiday season kept trading volumes muted.

Prices of both Brent and U.S. crude dropped more than 3 percent LCOc1 CLc1, reversing a brief rebound and dragging U.S. energy shares .SPNY down 1.8 percent as the worst performing of the major SP sectors.

Crude again moved within sight of an 11-year low. Brent settled at $36.62 and U.S. crude settled at $36.81 as last week’s short-covering dried up and players worried that prices had more room to swoon.

“You have energy and tax-loss harvesting moving markets back and forth in these last few weeks,” said Tim Courtney, Chief Investment Officer at Exencial Wealth Advisors, which oversees $1.4 billion in assets.

In contrast to oil, U.S. natural gas prices NGc1 settled up 10 percent at $2.228 per million British thermal units as forecasts for colder temperatures led to bets that long-delayed winter weather was finally arriving.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI fell 23.9 points, or 0.14 percent, to 17,528.27, the SP 500 .SPX lost 4.45 points, or 0.22 percent, to 2,056.54 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 7.51 points, or 0.15 percent, to 5,040.99.

A weak batch of industrial profits raised concerns about China’s economy and sent Chinese stocks lower by almost 3 percent, their biggest drop in a month.

Profits at Chinese industrial companies in November fell 1.4 percent from a year earlier, the sixth consecutive month of decline and another sign that the world’s chief engine of growth for the past decade is sputtering.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS gave up early modest gains to fall 0.53, putting it on track for a 12-percent loss this year.

With trading light in the United States and Europe between Christmas and the upcoming New Year’s holidays, as well as a holiday on Monday in the United Kingdom, markets could see exaggerated moves this week.

MSCI’s all-country world index .MIWD00000PUS lost 0.22 percent, while the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index closed down 0.54 percent.

In Europe, the drop in oil prices put pressure on energy stocks such as Repsol (REP.MC) and Total (TOTF.PA).

Yields on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes US10YT=RR inched down to 2.2322 percent, up 3/32 in price.

The dollar edged lower against a basket of major currencies, off 0.03 percent at 97.951 .DXY as bullish bets on the currency this year on a U.S. Federal Reserve rate hike met year-end profit-taking.

But the drop in oil prices hurt currencies linked to the commodity, such as the Australian AUD= and Canadian dollars CAD=.

The Australian dollar fell 0.1 percent to $0.7248 while its Canadian counterpart fell 0.6 percent to $1.3902, heading back towards this month’s 11-year lows.

Spot gold XAU= was down 0.7 percent at $1,068.19 an ounce and was on track for its sixth straight quarterly decline, its longest run of quarterly losses since the mid-1970s.

(Additional reporting by Noel Randewich; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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JPMorgan to raise deposit rates for some big clients in Jan -WSJ

JPMorgan Chase Co (JPM.N) will begin raising deposit rates for some of its biggest clients in January, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The bank’s deposit-rate increase will affect most institutional clients and the size of the increases will vary, the Journal reported, citing the person.

Earlier this month, major U.S. banks raised their prime rates, a benchmark for a wide range of consumer and commercial loans, for the first time since 2006, following a rate hike from the Federal Reserve.

JPMorgan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Spokesmen for Bank of America Corp (BAC.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Wells Fargo Co (WFC.N) said the banks had not raised deposit rates.

(Reporting By Sudarshan Varadhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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Oil down 3 percent; Brent near 11-year low as oversupply worries return

NEW YORK Oil fell more than 3 percent on Monday, with global benchmark Brent back near 11-year lows as last week’s short-covering dried up and players worried that crude prices had more room to swoon in the new year.

U.S. gasoline futures slid more than 2 percent as the selloff extended to refined oil products. Heating oil fell 1 percent as expectations of cold weather limited its downside amid a 10 percent rally in natural gas, another heating fuel. [NGA/]

Crude futures slumped in Asian trading as Japanese data showed a 46-year low in oil sales in the world’s fourth largest crude buyer. They slid more in the New York session, as some traders reckoned the two-day pre-Christmas rebound, where crude rose about $2 a barrel, had been overdone.

“Volume isn’t great, which is typical for this time of year, and most guys are either flat on their books and positioning themselves for a weaker first quarter in 2016,” said Tariq Zahir, an oil bear at Tyche Capital Advisors in Long Island, New York.

Brent settled down $1.27 at $36.62 a barrel, after falling to a session low of $36.52. It hit $35.98 on Tuesday, its lowest since 2004.

Brent also settled below U.S. crude’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures for a fourth straight day, showing its waning influence over WTI after this month’s decision by the United States to lift a 40-year ban on U.S. crude exports.

WTI finished the session down $1.29 at $36.81, after an intraday low at $36.66.

Oil bears are looking to beat WTI’s previous low of $32.40 in December 2008.

“A bearish stance still appears warranted and we continue to view a decline to the $32.50 area,” said Jim Ritterbusch at Chicago-based oil markets consultancy Ritterbusch Associates.

Figures from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries imply an oil glut of more than 2 million barrels per day, equal to more than 2 percent of world demand.

Crude prices have plunged nearly 70 percent from highs above $100 a barrel in June 2014 after OPEC, led by top exporter Saudi Arabia, dropped its longstanding policy of cutting output to support prices in favor of defending market share.

While the collapse has partly achieved OPEC’s goals by curbing growth of competing supplies, it has also put the finances of oil producers under strain.

Riyadh plans spending cuts and non-oil revenue raising methods to manage a record state budget deficit while state-owned oil firm Saudi Aramco pumps away.

(Additional reporting by Alex Lawler in London; Editing by Bill Trott, David Gregorio and Diane Craft)

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Wall Street in 2016: What could possibly go wrong?

NEW YORK By all rights, 2016 should be a good year for the U.S. stock market.

The Federal Reserve’s recent rate hike signals confidence in the economy and presidential election years typically reward investors. Most experts are predicting a seventh year for the current bull market, with strategists in a recent poll expecting the Standard Poor’s 500 stock index to end 2016 at about 2,207, roughly 8 percent higher than it is now.

But a lot could go wrong. The same strategists have cataloged a long list of worries – everything from a destabilizing U.S. election to a meltdown far away – that could hit stocks hard.

Here is their laundry list of concerns. For those who’d rather stay optimistic, remember the old chestnut: Wall Street climbs a wall of worry.


Most of the 30 strategists polled by Reuters cited weak earnings as their prominent concern. With SP earnings growth projected to be flat in 2015, stocks already are pricey. The market is trading at roughly 19.3 times trailing earnings, well above its 15 average. Any stumble in earnings would make stocks even pricier.

Thomson Reuters analysts now expect revenue to grow 3.9 percent in 2016, meaning any increases in costs could keep earnings flat for a second year in a row.

“If labor costs start moving up a bit and interest expense is moving up … it’s going to be hard to keep margins up,” said Bob Doll, chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management in Princeton, New Jersey.


The dollar, up 8.4 percent against a basket of currencies in 2015, is expected to see further gains next year as the United States hikes rates while other countries continue easy money policies.

That could further pressure sales of U.S. companies with heavy international exposure because it makes U.S. goods more expensive overseas.

“If we have a similar movement to last year, then we’re going to have roughly a $28-billion hit to corporate America,” said Wolfgang Koester, chief executive of currency risk consulting firm FireApps. He said he expects the dollar to shave 3 to 4 cents from first-quarter earnings of U.S. companies with foreign exposure.


Stocks historically do well in a presidential election year, with the SP gaining in 13 of the 16 presidential election years since 1950, regardless of which party won, according to the Stock Trader’s Almanac.

But strategists wonder if 2016 might be one of the exceptions to the trend, with outliers like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders running this year.

“The more extreme the candidate, the less well-received the candidate typically is by the stock market,” said Kristina Hooper, U.S. investment strategist at Allianz Global Investors. She said she expected election activity throughout the year to contribute to market volatility.


The stock market rallied on Dec. 16 when the U.S. Federal Reserve announced its first rate hike along with strong hints that it would move slowly on future increases.

But if the central bank continues to raise rates without seeing higher inflation or an earnings pick-up, that could dent stocks. “Rate hikes should be a consistent worry,” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer of Solaris Group in Bedford Hills, New York.

As rates rise, stocks could become less attractive compared with other asset classes like bonds.


The continuing decline in oil prices, which has hurt energy companies and the banks and investors that lend to them, has some investors spooked.

“The commodity picture could get out of control to the downside,” said John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management.

U.S. crude is now about $37 a barrel, down more than 65 percent since June 2014. Should the prices of oil and other commodities fail to firm, the risk is of spreading deflation, as declining earnings in those sectors spread to financial firms, suppliers and more, said Manley.


Even with gasoline under $2 a gallon, consumers have resisted spending sprees and higher interest rates may entice them to tilt even more towards saving.

The price-to-sales ratio of the SP has already topped previous peaks, says Jeff Weniger, senior portfolio strategist at BMO Private Bank in Chicago. Without sales, the whole growing economy-growing-earnings-improving-stock-prices structure could go south.


“China is the 800-pound gorilla,” said Allianz’s Hooper.

In August, Chinese stocks fell and the U.S. market swooned in response. With the outlook for the world’s second-largest economy still weak, investors worry that it could hurt demand for commodities, currency balances and more. Furthermore, weakness in China could ripple across the globe, hitting emerging markets and the United States as well.


At least nine of the strategists polled listed terrorism or Middle East instability among their biggest concerns for the stock market in 2016.

“The obvious risk is some sort of geopolitical event that freezes up travel and trade. It could happen,” said Steve Auth, chief investment officer for equities at Federated Investors. Consumers, too, could be kept at home by any public events perceived as terrorist in nature.

While free-falling oil has proven bad for stocks, the reverse would not necessarily help. A systemic crisis in the Middle East could easily spike oil prices, raising costs for consumers and businesses.

Not dark enough? Manley of Wells Fargo says he worries about “the risk that the vital spirit has gone out of the world’s economy.”

He said, “The deepest darkest fear I have is that we didn’t really fix it six years ago, we just delayed it for a while. And rather than being sunk by a gash we are being sunk by a slow leak. It’s not what I think, but it is what I worry about.”

(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak,; Lewis Krauskopf, Rodrigo Campos, Sinead Carew and Marcus Howard in New York, and Noel Randewich in San Francisco; editing by Linda Stern and Nick Zieminski)

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Oil drops 3 percent; Brent near 11-year lows and under WTI

NEW YORK Crude prices fell 3 percent on Monday with Brent back near 11-year lows and trading lower to U.S. crude, pressured by weak Japanese consumption of oil and renewed worries about oversupply.

U.S. gasoline also fell about 3 percent while heating oil slid 1 percent as the selloff extended to refined products on the New York petroleum futures complex.

“Much of today’s selling is being led by the crude benchmarks that are, in turn, responding to some disappointing Japanese industrial production guidance,” said Jim Ritterbusch at Chicago-based oil markets consultancy Ritterbusch Associates.

Japan’s total oil product sales in November fell to a 46-year low, data showed.

In Europe, demand growth for oil products turned negative in October, analysts at JBC Energy said in a report, citing figures from the Joint Organisations Data Initiative – the first year-on-year decline this year, JBC said.

But thin trading volumes ahead of the year-end holidays and jitters about colder weather forecasts also could prevent new lows in crude for now, Ritterbusch said.

“Downside price response will likely be limited by updated weekend forecasts for some colder northeast temperatures through about the first third of January,” he said.

Brent was down $1.12 at $36.77 a barrel by 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT). It had hit a 2004 low of $35.98 on Tuesday.

U.S. crude’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures fell $1.23 to $36.87.

Figures from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries imply a glut of more than 2 million barrels per day, equal to more than 2 percent of world demand. Oversupply is expected to persist into the earlier part of next year.

“The global supply and demand tables are still showing a heavy picture for the first half of 2016,” said Olivier Jakob, oil analyst at Petromatrix.

Crude futures have plunged nearly 70 percent from highs above $100 a barrel in June 2014 after OPEC, led by top exporter Saudi Arabia, dropped its longstanding policy of cutting output to support prices in favor of defending market share.

While the collapse has partly achieved OPEC’s goals by curbing growth of competing supplies, it has put finances in producing nations under more strain, even in the relatively wealthy Gulf states.

Saudi Arabia on Monday announced plans to shrink a record state budget deficit with spending cuts and a drive to raise revenues from sources other than oil.

(Additional reporting by Alex Lawler in London; Editing by Bill Trott)

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Energy stocks weigh on indexes in last week of 2015

Wall Street began the last trading week of the year in the red, dragged down by energy stocks, as oil prices resumed a slide brought on by global oversupply.

The 1.97 percent fall in the energy sector was the worst performance on the SP 500. Exxon’s shares were down 1 percent at $78.57, while Chevron was down 1.9 percent at $90.34. The stocks were among the biggest drags on the SP and the Dow. [O/R]

“It’s mostly on crude. That’s more the issue than anything else,” said Paul Nolte, senior vice president and portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

All three major indexes posted their best weeks since mid-November last week, rising about 2.5 percent, led by a short-lived surge in energy stocks.

The SP 500 slipped back into negative territory for the year on Monday, down 0.6 percent, while the Dow was down 2.1 percent. The Nasdaq Composite was up 5.7 percent.

At 11:05 a.m. ET (1605 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 105.53 points, or 0.6 percent, at 17,446.64, the SP 500 was down 15.02 points, or 0.73 percent, at 2,045.97 and the Nasdaq Composite index was down 44.28 points, or 0.88 percent, at 5,004.21.

Apple was down 1.5 percent at $106.44 and was the biggest drag on the SP and Nasdaq. Goldman Sachs’ 1.3 percent decline weighed the most on the Dow.

Trading volumes are expected be subdued through the week, which is likely to exacerbate volatility.

Valeant was down 9.7 percent at $103.09 after the Canadian drugmaker said Chief Executive Michael Pearson is going on medical leave.

Fitbit was up 2.9 percent at $29.74, after reports that the wearable gadget maker’s iOS app was the most downloaded after Christmas, suggesting strong holiday demand.

Dow component Disney was up 0.9 percent at $106.83, after the company’s latest Star Wars installment topped $1 billion in ticket sales.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,336 to 605. On the Nasdaq, 1,922 issues fell and 740 advanced.

The SP 500 index showed no new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 22 new highs and 24 new lows.

(Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)

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