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Good evening, Bull Sheeters. This is Fortune finance reporter Rey Mashayekhi, filling in this week for Bernhard Warner.
A bad day for Big Tech stocks led a poor day overall for the markets, as all eyes remain focused on the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and its escalating feud with Beijing.
- After trading in negative territory for most of Thursday, markets in New York sank even further in the afternoon to finish deeper in the red. The Dow lost more than 350 points (-1.3%), the S&P 500 fell -1.2%, and the Nasdaq felt Big Tech’s pain and shed -2.3%.
- Notable earnings reports out today include Intel, AT&T, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Twitter, and Blackstone.
- Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has taken advantage of Bank of America’s stock slump by picking up $813 million worth of BAC shares.
- Ascena Retail Group, which operates clothing chains Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant, is the latest retailer to have filed for bankruptcy amid the pandemic.
- Congressional lawmakers continue to work on a new coronavirus stimulus package. While some Republicans are suggesting steep cuts to the CARES Act’s $600-per-week federal unemployment benefit, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are said to be floating a second round of stimulus checks. Meanwhile, unemployment claims are again on the rise as a spike in COVID-19 cases hinders the economy.
- After starting Thursday strong, the European bourses gave up much of their gains to end the day virtually flat across the board. London’s FTSE was up less than 0.1%, Frankfurt’s DAX was down fractionally, the CAC 40 in Paris slipped less than -0.1%, and the pan-European STOXX 600 gained less than 0.1%.
- Notable European companies to release their earnings Thursday include Daimler, Unilever, Publicis Groupe, and Roche.
- The scandal surrounding defunct German payments processor Wirecard thickens. German authorities arrested former Wirecard CEO Markus Braun and two other former executives Wednesday on new charges for their alleged role in cooking the company’s books. The scandal also threatens to envelop German chancellor Angela Merkel, who reportedly lobbied the company to Chinese officials last year despite knowing of probes into Wirecard.
- The coronavirus crisis has prompted the European Commission to ease financial regulations in a bid to boost the continent’s economy.
- The U.K. says previous assessments have underestimated the economic benefits of its post-Brexit trade deals.
- The Asian exchanges had a mixed Thursday. Markets in Japan were closed for a national holiday, but Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.8% while South Korea’s KOSPI lost -0.6%. On mainland China, Shanghai’s SSE Composite fell -0.2% and Shenzhen’s SZSE Component closed virtually flat (+0.03%).
- South Korea’s economy is officially in recession, per second-quarter GDP figures released Thursday.
- U.S.-China tensions remain high, with China’s foreign ministry warning the U.S. to “carefully think about” its stance after the latter ordered the Chinese consulate in Houston to close. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for his part, says it is the Chinese Communist Party that needs a change in direction.
- While China’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s autonomy has some worried about HK’s future as a global financial hub, Beijing is betting that it will become a bigger center for Chinese finance.
- The Wirecard scandal has extended to the Philippines, where authorities are investigating bank employees who may have facilitated the fraud.
- Gold continued its historic rally toward $1,900 per ounce.
- The dollar continued to sink as the euro climbed.
- Crude oil dipped, with Brent retreating to under $44 per barrel.
Taking a bite out of Apple
Like most of its Big Tech counterparts, Apple had a dreadful day on Wall Street. Apple shares closed down more than -4.5%—a drop steeper than those experienced by Microsoft (-4.4%), Amazon (-3.7%), Alphabet (-3.1%) and Facebook (-3%).
Cupertino was surely not amused by a Goldman Sachs note that advised investors to steer clear of Apple’s stock, citing concerns over an “unsustainable” share price that, as of Wednesday, had surged more than 70% from its March low. What’s more, ahead of Apple’s earnings call next Thursday, Goldman says it doesn’t expect the tech giant to provide an official guidance for the next quarter—blurring the pandemic’s impact on Apple’s business, and particularly on the upcoming launch of its next iPhone.
Even a one-month delay to the iPhone’s launch could potentially hurt the company’s revenues by 7% and its earnings by 6% in the final quarter of 2020, Goldman said. The investment bank’s analysts set Apple’s price target at $299 per share—a level that the stock hasn’t traded at since early May.
Meanwhile, Thursday also brought news that the attorneys general of Texas and several other states are investigating Apple over possible violations of consumer protection laws. That could give lawmakers on Capitol Hill more fodder ahead of Monday’s much-hyped Big Tech congressional hearing, in which Tim Cook will appear alongside Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai.
Betting against Apple’s continued success may seem foolhardy, given the company’s dominance in the consumer tech sphere and the enviable performance of its stock (see: its $1.6 trillion market capitalization).
But at a time when many observers believe the equity markets at large are overinflated, it’s not hard to look at Apple’s recent run-up with a fair dose of skepticism. After all, even before the pandemic, the company was showing signs of flattening revenue growth—a dynamic that could well be exacerbated by our current, unprecedented headwinds.
That’s all for today. Have a pleasant evening and see you tomorrow.