Transcript: Nightly Business Report — March 2, 2015

NBR ThumANNOUNCER: This is NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT with Tyler Mathisen and Sue Herera.

SUE HERERA, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: NASDAQ 5000. Almost 15 years to the day, the index closes above that key level. But this time around, things are different.

On the Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) of Omaha`s 50th anniversary of the helm of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A), who may be next in line to succeed him?

All that and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for Monday, March 2nd.

Good evening, everyone. And welcome to March.

It was a long road back, but the NASDAQ once synonymous with the dotcom bubble has climbed above the 5,000 level for the first time in almost 15 years, March of 2000 to be exact. It`s only the third time, by the way, that the NASDAQ composite index has closed above that symbolically significant number 5,000.

It was also a record day, by the way, for the Dow Jones Industrial Average, up nearly 156 points. It finished at 18,288. The NASDAQ closed
44 points higher. It was 5,008. And the S&P 500 also at a new all-time closing high, up 12 points to finish the day at 2,117.

Bertha Coombs joins us from NASDAQ market site with a look at what drove the index to this level.

Hi, Bertha.

BERTHA COOMBS, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: It has been an amazing ride, Tyler. And, you know, if you think about 15 years ago, you had stocks that traded on the NASDAQ with valuations that were sometimes
100 times or more what their earnings were, if they had profits at all.

Very different index right now. If you take a look at a number of these stocks, some of the high flyers, they now have valuations that are much closer to the overall market. The NASDAQ 100, even if you have stocks like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Tesla, they`re trading at 100 times their very limited profits, you still have other stocks that are brought the NASDAQ 100 P/E down to 19. That compares to the S&P at 17.

And really, the biggest indicator is Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), despite being the largest company ever by market valuation, trades at just 14 times its record-breaking earnings. Profits matter now.

MATHISEN: All right. Bertha, thank you very much. Bertha Coombs at NASDAQ.

HERERA: Bertha mentioned Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and it was a big part of the NASDAQ`s March back to 5,000. But other companies played a role as well.

And Dominic Chu has that part of the story.


DOMINIC CHU, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: A lot of investors didn`t think we would get there. But here we are.

NASDAQ 5,000, a level we haven`t seen since the peak of the Internet stock bubble back in 2000.

Now, in addition to its run towards that milestone, both the NASDAQ composite and NASDAQ 100 index of larger cap stocks have been among the best performers from major U.S. indices.

Now, it`s no surprise that one company in particular has accounted for the bulk of the NASDAQ`s gain so far in 2015, none other than Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

But despite its massive size, the run towards record territory couldn`t have happened without help from stocks like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).com. The Internet retail giant got a huge pop at the end of January after a better than expected earnings report after last quarter that included the all-important holiday shopping season.

Then, there`s large biotech companies that helped the bullish run, like Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ:GILD), the company behind big name drugs that threat HIV and Hepatitis C has seen its shares rise so far this year.

And then there are other tech/media companies, like Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). The online streaming movie provider is the single best performing stock in the NASDAQ 100. Now, companies like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), Gilead, and Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) have a much larger influence on the overall index because of their sheer size.
But size can cut both ways in terms of the negative side as well.

We hit the 5,000 mark on the composite despite underperformance from the likes of tech titans like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC). Now, those two stocks have been the biggest drag and perhaps a big reason why we haven`t hit these levels sooner.



MATHISEN: And Liz Ann Sonders joins us now to tell us what`s different about NASDAQ 5,000 this time around. She`s chief investment strategist with Charles Schwab.

Liz Ann, great, as always, to see you.


MATHISEN: How do you characterize today`s NASDAQ, and compare it with the one of 2000?

SONDERS: Well, I would not use the term “bubble” by any stretch to define where we are, when you just simply focus on valuations, which was really at the heart of why we classified it as a bubble back in 2000. The NASDAQ was trading at close to 200 times back at the peak in that era. And it`s about 10 percent of that right now.

I think also what`s interesting, and, you know, Dom talked about the health care and health care companies, NASDAQ is much more diversified now than it was back in 2000. It was about 77 percent tech and telecom combined, and only about 44 percent now. And I think those are two notable differences between then and now.

HERERA: And profits, a lot of the companies that list on the NASDAQ had very solid profits, very solid bottom lines, very big difference from 2000.

SONDERS: And the IPOs, too. You have half the track record of IPOs that were coming out at that point, versus the IPOs that are coming to market today.

MATHISEN: Liz Ann, you make the point I think correctly that we`re not anywhere near a bubble kind of territory, but what is your view of how richly or fairly valued NASDAQ is right now?

SONDERS: Again, at 20 times earnings, I really don`t think that that`s a very stretched market. It`s a little bit richer than the S&P 500 on a forward basis. But, frankly, it almost trades at a premium to the S&P 500. So, I certainly wouldn`t use that as a gauge.

Now, I think there are reasons we could have more bouts of volatility in the market. We`re approaching an initial rate hike ostensibly this year, and that could cause a little bit of a pullback. And I don`t think the NASDAQ would be immune to a situation like that. But I don`t think valuation it and of itself for the NASDAQ is an impediment right now.

HERERA: So, if interest rate risk is out there, what are the other risks that you`re watching? I mean, I would assume that it includes perhaps elevated sentiment levels, things like that, where there`s too much enthusiasm?

SONDERS: Yes, you know, I wouldn`t say sentiment is anywhere the euphoric levels that you tend to see at major bull market peaks, certainly not what you saw back in 2000. That said, we — most traditional sentiment measures, whether you`re looking at American Association of Individual Investors or investors intelligence, which measures newsletter writers, or the put/call ratio — any number of measures shows that optimism has picked up.

But I suppose you could argue that NASDAQ getting back above 5,000 might add a little bit of fuel to that. But I think the notion of the kind of extreme euphoria that marks major bull mark tops, I think we`re far from that.

MATHISEN: All right. Liz Ann, thanks. Always great to see you.

SONDERS: Thanks to you both.

MATHISEN: Liz Ann Sonders with Charles Schwab.

HERERA: And let`s stick with technology. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) says it will acquire Aruba Networks (NASDAQ:ARUN) for nearly $3 billion.
The deal will expand HP`s reach into the mobile market. HP rose fractionally, while Aruba Networks (NASDAQ:ARUN) fell slightly.

And chip maker NXP Semiconductors (NASDAQ:NXPI) will buy Freescale Semi. The merged operations will value the combined company at roughly $40 billion. That sent both stocks soaring.

And as Jon Fortt tells us, deal making is on the minds of some of the biggest names in technology at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.


JON FORTT, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: It`s the most important deal-making conference for the mobile industry. And this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the tech heavyweights are out in force.

In his keynote, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg telling the audience that his company is eager to expand its free Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) offering to generate demand in emerging markets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What did you learn that`s going to allow you to better scale this?


FORTT: But what`s even more astounding is how disruptive the social media giant has been in the mobile world. WhatsApp, the free messaging service that Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) purchased last year for more than $19 million, has had a dramatic impact in developing markets. In India, where about 10 percent of mobile users are WhatsApp subscribers, wireless providers have seen their SMS messaging revenues cut in half.

JAVIER COLIVAN: We focus on building rate products, look at the metrics to make sure our products are used, and they, you know, provide great experience for the users.

FORTT: Back in the U.S., meanwhile, the NASDAQ is back at highs not seen since the dotcom boom.

But the tech industry`s Cinderella run of profits could be in trouble.

RICK OSTERLON: They`re not huge margins in this market. But certainly, we make money on each one. We think it`s a huge opportunity for the company in the future.

FORTT: Thanks to a flood of cheap phones from low cost newcomers like Micromax and Xiaomi, mid-tier phone makers like Motorola and Microsoft
(NASDAQ:MSFT) have been forced to drop prices to keep up. And that in turn could squeeze margins like Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM).

(on camera): And there`s another lingering question for many here in Barcelona. What happens when the smartphone market flattens out even more?

(voice-over): Wearables like watches have yet to catch on. But many of the mobile industry`s biggest names like HTC and Samsung show this weekend that they`re still looking to the risks and the face for signs of life after smartphones. But if the new technology fails to catch on with consumers, many in the industry might find themselves in a repeat of the PC era.

When price competition led companies to buy each other to stay alive.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Jon Fortt in Barcelona.


MATHISEN: Visa (NYSE:V) was one of the reasons behind the Dow`s rally today, after Costco (NASDAQ:COST) named Visa (NYSE:V) and Citi its new credit card partners, replacing its exclusive relationship with American Express (NYSE:EXPR) (NYSE:AXP). Today, Visa (NYSE:V), Citi and Costco (NASDAQ:COST) were all higher, as you see there.

Kayla Tausche now with more on what the deal means for the companies, and for Costco (NASDAQ:COST) customers.


For Costco (NASDAQ:COST) companies, the question debit or credit has a new meaning. For 15 years, credit has meant using only an American Express
(NYSE:EXPR) (NYSE:AXP) issued Costco (NASDAQ:COST) credit card. Starting next year, it means using any Visa (NYSE:V) credit card, thanks to a new partnership announced today.

Visa (NYSE:V) will serve as the exclusive network processing credit transaction at Costco`s 474 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Citigroup (NYSE:C) will be the card issuer. Meaning Costco (NASDAQ:COST) credit card holders must transition to the new credit cards bearing those two logos by next April. The announcement that Costco (NASDAQ:COST) would let the partnership with American Express (NYSE:EXPR) (NYSE:AXP) expire next March taking the financial industry by surprise, and creating a vicious competition between banks clawing for that business.

Warren Buffett weighed in on the situation.

WARREN BUFFETT, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY CHMN. & CEO: Someone was going to get the bid. American Express (NYSE:EXPR) (NYSE:AXP) learned a week or two ago that they were not the one that was going to get it. I don`t know the terms of the new deal. But I don`t think Citi will get rich off of it.

TAUSCHE: The Costco (NASDAQ:COST) portfolio offers admittedly low margins to an issuer. Evercore said it`s around 50 basis points. But Costco (NASDAQ:COST) blamed economics as the reason it parted ways with AmEx, meaning Costco (NASDAQ:COST) wants a more favorable deals for the exclusivity. Savings at Costco (NASDAQ:COST) could have other benefits, too. Analysts at Stifel Nicolaus writing the improved economics can be passed on to both members and shareholders.

And it is still a win for the new partners. Before the deal was announced, Barclays estimated Visa (NYSE:V) could reap $100 million from it. Citigroup (NYSE:C) is already the world`s largest credit card issuer, but revenue in its card unit has been spotty, and while the Costco
(NASDAQ:COST) portfolio is low margin, it once represented 10 percent of AmEx cards in circulation and 20 percent of its loans.

(on camera): So, what happens to those millions of Costco
(NASDAQ:COST) credit cards already in shoppers` wallets? Costco
(NASDAQ:COST) said it will provide more details about this transition, meanwhile American Express (NYSE:EXPR) (NYSE:AXP) will likely try to convince customers to transfer their balances to other AmEx products, only those products won`t be accepted at Costco (NASDAQ:COST).

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Kayla Tausche in New York.


HERERA: And now to a handful of hot global spots that investors are watching very closely, from Russia to China to Cuba.

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera has the latest.


We`ll start in Russia where a massive march occurred over the weekend.
Thousands came out to mourn the assassination of Putin critic Boris Nemtsov. This even was originally supposed to be a march for peace organized in part by Nemtsov. But after his murder, it was turned into a remembrance rally, and the Kremlin took the unusual step of allowing these huge crowds to gather in the center of Moscow, right next to the walls of the Kremlin.

Important financial news out of Russia`s southern neighbor, China.
Chinese markets jumping today after the country`s central bank had interest rates again for the second time in three months. Just like many other central banks in the world, China`s cutting rates in an effort to jump- start the swelling economy. The cut was a quarter of a point for one-year lending to a level of 5.35 percent.

Here in the U.S.: the price of copper moved to a six-week high on that news.

And to Cuba now. Roberta Jackson, the State Department`s lead diplomat for Latin America says she is optimistic that the U.S. and Cuba will resume diplomatic ties by mid-April. This news came after meetings with the Cuban diplomats, the first meetings held in the U.S. since President Obama announced in December change in U.S. policy towards the communist country. The Cuban negotiators want Cuba to be removed from the U.S. list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

They say their presence on that list makes them possible for Cuba to conduct banking and other business in this country that they would need to do in order operate an embassy here in Washington. The White House is deciding whether Cuba`s designation as a terrorist state is outdated.

In the meantime, new evidence today that Fidel Castro is apparently still alive. Photographs published today in Cuba showing the former dictator meeting with the so-called Cuban five. Those are five spies who spent years in U.S. prison and released in December as part of the prisoner exchange of the U.S. That exchange came at the same time as President Obama`s historic announcement.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.


MATHISEN: Still ahead, did the Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) of Omaha give any hints about who is next in line to take over at Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A)? It`s the question that`s top of minds for many investors.


HERERA: Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A), released his annual letter to shareholders this weekend. In it, he celebrated 50 years at the helm of his company and delivered his usual musings on the market. In an interview earlier today on CNBC, Buffett offered this piece of advice for investors.


BUFFETT: I always say, if you aren`t investing for value, what are you investing for? The idea that value and growth are two different things makes no sense. I mean, growth is part of the value equation. A company that grows and uses little capital in doing, high returns on incremental capital, is obviously worth more money than one that doesn`t grow. That doesn`t make the one that doesn`t grow value. So —


HERERA: Buffett also touched on an issue his shareholders care deeply about, succession. Berkshire`s vice chairman, Charlie Munger, hinted over the weekend that the next CEO could be one of two men within the organization, Ajit Jain or Greg Abel.


BUFFETT: It`s not a horse race. And that story comes from Charlie saying that those two are world class, which they absolutely are. In fact, he said describing them as world class was probably an understatement. I would totally agree with that. Either one of those men could run just about any company you could name. It wouldn`t just be Berkshire. I mean, they are incredible managers, and we`re lucky to have them.


HERERA: And with us now is someone who`s covered Warren Buffet for many years, she`s senior special correspondent at “Fortune,” and NBR contributor and, of course, very familiar face to all of us, Susie Gharib.

Welcome back. Anchor of the show for so many years. Susie, it`s great to see you.

SUSIE GHARIB, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CONTRIBUTOR: It`s good to be back with both of you. I missed you, guys, and all of our viewers.

MATHISEN: My two favorite Sues right here.


HERERA: For this show I guess.

So, talk to us about the succession issue. We were talking in our afternoon meeting today that the language that he`s using and the tone seems to indicate the direction in which he`s going.

GHARIB: Well, look, he`s got to be talking to shareholders. It is, after all, the 50th anniversary. So, it`s a look back and it`s also a look ahead. I think there`s an obligation to talk about it.

But here`s a man who was on CNBC this morning for three hours. I mean, at 84 years old, do you think he`s going to give up? He`s having a great time.

But he did say a couple of things in this shareholders leader that gave more hints. One is, he says the board has been talking a lot about this. They have the right person. He says gender is not an issue, it could be a woman.

But this person is ready to go into action within 24 hours if Warren Buffett dies or if he steps down.

One thing that struck me, Tyler, just before we move on, is that Charlie Munger said in this letter, in his version, our ambitions have no finish line. And that says to me that Munger who is 91, and Buffett who is
84 are going to keep on going.

MATHISEN: And having followed him for many years, your instinct does not tell you that he`s any closer today to turning over the reins a week ago, a month ago, a year.

GHARIB: And he`s talking about doing more acquisitions, big ones.
He has a plan of action.

MATHISEN: Let`s talk about the company`s performance. The stock did very well last year. But the profits were less good, energy and the railroads the problem.

GHARIB: Right. I mean, here`s a company of Berkshire Hathaway
(NYSE:BRK.A) that has 80 businesses, different things, everything from dairy queen and Heinz ketchup to Burlington Northern Railroad, which had problems this year. A lot of the companies that are tied to the housing industry, which had problems.

HERERA: Right.

GHARIB: But you look at the stock, up 27 percent last year. And if you look over 50 years, if you bought the stock in 1965, at $19, and those class “A” shares are $122,000, you`re making compounded 19 1/2 percent a year. So, you know, you got to credit the guy.

HERERA: It`s a pretty impressive chart anyway you look at it.

One thing that was kind of omitted was IBM. And that had some eyebrows raised on Wall Street today. What did you make of it?

GHARIB: Well, I mean, it was IBM, here`s a company that they opened for quite a while. You know that the revenues have been declining. That stock investors have been dumping out of it. And yet, Warren Buffett says he likes it. And there are many ropes they`re sticking with it.

He didn`t give too many specifics but said if it keeps going lower, he`ll keep buying more. He already owns more than 7 percent. So, I think today, the stock was down. So, I think it`s a matter of time where the markets right, or was the Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) of Omaha made the right call.

HERERA: As much as he normally does, maybe that`s a way to look at it.

MATHISEN: Very quickly, no dividend coming anytime soon, in 30 years he said.

GHARIB: You know, he`s adamant against it, but he said in 10 to 20 years, maybe. I think he was just sort of telegraphing a message to the next CEO, if you decide you need a dividend, it`s OK by me.

HERERA: There you go. Susie, great to see you.

GHARIB: Great seeing you, Sue.

HERERA: Thanks so much for joining us, Susie. Susie Gharib.


MATHISEN: All right. Sotheby`s a big drop in fourth quarter earnings. And that is where we begin tonight`s “Market Focus”. Susie can read this easily.

The auction house saw its profits fall as expenses rose. This as it faces pressure from shareholders and it is in search of a new chief. Its revenue did rise and topped expectations, but that wasn`t enough for investors. Shares fell more than 1 percent to $43.34.

Medical device maker Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) will buy the urology portfolio of American Medical Systems, which is owned by Endo International. The deal, valued at around $1.5 billion, and it comes as Endo hopes to streamline and focus on its core pharmaceuticals business.
Shares of Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) up almost 1 percent to $17.06. Endo International rose 2 percent. It closed at $87.32.

HERERA: Another deal announced in the medical space today. Cardinal Health (NYSE:CAH), the drug distributor, is buying Johnson & Johnson`s Cordis medical product`s unit for about $2 billion. Cordis makes devices like stents and catheters, which adds to Cardinal`s portfolio, of course.
Shares of Cardinal Health (NYSE:CAH) rose almost 2 percent to $89.52. J&J, which owns Cordis, was up a fraction to $103.22.

But it was a very tough day for shares of Lumber Liquidators. The company is pushing back against a report on CBS`s “60 Minutes” which said it sold flooring with higher levels of formaldehyde, a carcinogen, than what is permitted under California law. The hardwood flooring maker says the news program used an improper testing method for its results. Still, shares plunged 25 percent, or $13 to close at $38.83.

MATHISEN: And coming up, one of the top performing stocks on the NASDAQ since its October 2002 lull. You`ve likely never heard of it.
There`s a hint. But you probably wish you owned it.


HERERA: The dotcom bubble started to go bust back in 2000. But it wasn`t until October of 2002 that the NASDAQ hit its low. And some of the best performing stocks on the index since then are familiar names like Monster Beverage, Priceline, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX). But there`s one you`ve likely never heard of.

Josh Lipton has more.


Since the NASDAQ hit its low 13 years ago, one of the top performing stocks in the index is a company called SBA Communications (NASDAQ:SBAC). Ring a bell? Maybe not.

It`s a tower company which makes money leasing antenna space to carriers, such as AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon (NYSE:VZ). And since 2002, it`s up a whopping 54,000 percent. No matter what time frame you look at,
10 years, five years, three years, or the past 12 months, SBA stock easily beats the NASDAQ and the S&P 500.

What explains the excitement around a company that owns and operates wireless towers? It`s a play on the explosion of mobile devices. In 2002, the iPhone didn`t even exist. Now, the number of smartphone users worldwide will surpass $2 billion in 2016, according to research firm E- Marketer. That means carriers need to lease more antenna space from SBA to meet growing customer demand for mobile data.

MICHAEL BOWEN, PACIFIC CREST SENIOR RESEARCH ANALYST: Whether you`re using an iPad or whether you`re using an iPhone or an Android device, the tower companies are needed by every single carrier at this point in the U.S. and abroad for that matter.

LIPTON: SBA`s growth shows no signs of stopping. In its last reported quarter, revenue jumped more than 20 percent to over $400 million.
One catalyst that could move the stock higher, mobile growth overseas.

The team at RBC says Brazil represents a big opportunity, given its fast-growing population of more than 280 million mobile subscribers. SBA owns some 7,000 towers there.

(on camera): If anything is going to stop this stock`s rapid rise is the potential for carriers to dramatically cut spending. Analysts don`t expect that to happen anytime soon. They bet this stock keeps rising, as long as there`s global demand for mobile data.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Josh Lipton in Silicon Valley.


MATHISEN: Finally tonight, “Forbes” out with its annual list of the world`s billionaires. Third place, Warren Buffet. Number two, the Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu. And Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) founder, Bill Gates, once again, the world`s richest person. Net worth, $79 billion.

HERERA: And that`s NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight. I`m Sue Herera.

And we want to remind you, this is the time of year your public television station seeks your support.

MATHISEN: And I`m Tyler Mathisen. On behalf of your public TV station, thanks for your support. We`ll see you tomorrow.


Nightly Business Report transcripts and video are available on-line post broadcast at The program is transcribed by CQRC Transcriptions, LLC. Updates may be posted at a later date. The views of our guests and commentators are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Nightly Business Report, or CNBC, Inc. Information presented on Nightly Business Report is not and should not be considered as investment advice. (c) 2015 CNBC, Inc.

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