Transcript: Nightly Business Report — March 16, 2015

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

Stocks take off as investors applaud the dollar taking a break from its fierce rally.

TYLER MATHISEN, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT ANCHOR: Oil slumps. Crude hit its lowest level in six years. A top commodity strategist says where it`s headed next and what may happen after that.

HERERA: And priming the pump? The Federal Reserve meets this week.
Will the Central Bank tweak its language to lay the groundwork for interest rate hikes?

All that and more, for March 16th.

MATHISEN: Good evening, everyone, and welcome.

Stocks got a jump on St. Patrick`s Day today. The major indexes were all in the green, fueled by a weaker dollar and a better than 2 percent drop in oil prices. The pullback in the dollar was welcomed since the currency has risen about 12 percent so far this year. And it has pressured stocks heavily at times. The rising dollar can sap the profits of big companies that export or do a lot of business outside the U.S.

Yet, the strength of today`s rally was a bit of a head scratcher, since there really, really wasn`t that much news to drive stocks.
Nonetheless, the Dow was up 228 points to close at 17,977, the NASDAQ jumped 57, and the S&P 500 went along, adding 27.

HERERA: The rally caught some by surprise considering there`s a meeting of the Federal Reserve this week. Usually, investors go into a holding pattern until after the meeting. But, oh well, not today. Anyway, the big theme this week when dealing with interest rates, will the Fed continue to be patient?

Hampton Pearson takes a look.


Leading market analysts, economists and Fed watchers say when it comes to the Federal Reserve, patience may no longer be a virtue. Fed watchers anticipate a new watch word on the road to monetary policy changes in the coming months, expectations are growing, that when Janet Yellen and her fellow monetary policymakers wrap up their two-day meeting this week, they will use new language to begin comparing markets for a possible hike in interest rates from record lows.

KATHY LIEN, FX STRATEGIST: If they`re actually (ph) going to go and to remove patience. But the key here is they`re going to probably lower the inflation expectations component. And most important thing to remember is that there`s three months between March and June.

PEARSON: Fed watchers say removing “patient” from the Fed guidance does not make a June rate hike a lot. And that the first rate hike will be small, 25 basis points perhaps, with policy makers adopting a wait-and-see attitude before going higher.

While the strong job market with unemployment at 5 1/2 percent is at the upper end of the Fed`s full employment mandate, inflation is well below the Fed`s target. And leading economists say the surging dollar could complicate the Fed`s decision on the timing of that rate hike.

WARD MCCARTHY, JEFFERIES & CO.: The rise in the dollar has been extremely abrupt. And I don`t think the Fed is particularly worried about a dollar that`s rising, but they don`t want it to happen in such an abrupt fashion that it could be destabilizing to global financial markets.

PEARSON (on camera): In the Fed statement, and post-meeting news conference, look for Fed Chair Janet Yellen to avoid telegraphing a timetable for a rate hike and “flexible” could become the new watch word for monetary policy makers.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Hampton Pearson in Washington.


MATHISEN: Now, back to oil, where U.S. crude hit its lowest level since 2009. Oil had been rising for more than a month. But it`s been slipping again lately. And today, the concern was with the supplies keep growing, even though more rigs have shut down lately, and that a nuclear deal with Iran could lead to looser sanctions and Iranian crude hitting the market. West Texas Intermediate settled almost a dollar lower, at $43.88.
Brent also fell. It was down more than $1.

HERERA: Oil was a big topic in Egypt this weekend as well, at a conference aimed at bringing some big investment money to that country.
One big oil CEO didn`t pull any punches.

Hadley Gamble is in Sharm el-Sheikh with more.


HADLEY GAMBLE, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Basically, what we`ve seen over the last few days is a major international outpouring of support for Egypt. President Sisi`s message that he`s given at the World Economic Forum in January was that this country is open for business, that he was going to do those necessary reforms so that investment would come back to the country, and that`s just what we`re seeing now.

Now, I just had a chance to catch up with BP`s Bob Dudley. We talked about the oil market to ask him for his outlook on oil. But I only asked him, given the current pricing environment, how that is impacting his investment strategy.

BOB DUDLEY, BP CEO: It`s a world of luxury. We`ve been in $100 oil for three to four years, and quite frankly, the world got used to it. The cost structures were high and the taxation was high. That`s an unusual period.

We`re back in a normal world of volatility of oil and gas prices.
We`re down now today, as of Friday, $54 Brent, $44 in the United States.
This is a huge shock for our industry. Cost structures are going to have to move and change. Taxation is going to have to move and change. It`s going to be very painful.

GAMBLE: There`s some incredible buzz surrounding this investment conference here in Egypt. But, of course, investors telling me there still are questions about security. They want to know that their money is going to be safe in this country. President Sisi telling investors here in Sharm al-Sheik that their money will be safe and that Egypt is open for business.

But, of course, the question remains whether or not they`re going to be able to keep this momentum going.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Hadley Gamble in Sharm el-Sheikh.


MATHISEN: And joining us now to talk more about oil is Sameer Samana. He`s global strategist with Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) Investment Institute.

Mr. Samana, welcome. Good to have you with us.

We promised at the top of the broadcast that you would tell us what`s going to happen next with the price of oil and then what happens after that.

So, go ahead.

In the coming months, the most we can say is that prices will remain volatile. We`ve seen, you know, obviously, the low 40s, back up to the low 50s, now back into the low 40s. So, probably in the coming months, you`re going to continue to have this wild choppy trade where it`s hard to rule out oil getting into the $30, you know, maybe $35 area, because that`s where a lot of the producers really start to sweat it out especially in the U.S.

So, in the near term, probably much more volatility, probably a little more weakness. But that probably gives way to underinvestment, a little bit less production, and as demand comes on in the second half of the year, probably higher prices.

HERERA: Well, how much higher, if indeed that demand does come in the latter part of the year? What`s your upside target for oil?

SAMANA: You know, we`ve got a year-end target of $60 to $70. But that might be probably something that spills over into the first half of next year. But we do think, you know, fair value for oil prices much, much higher. But in the near term, all the different concerns about higher supplies, where to store it, all those different things are really weighing on the price of oil, and almost nobody`s talking about the demand side.

MATHISEN: Where does the demand come from, if it comes back?

SAMANA: Probably the biggest thing that will start to come back very quickly is you`ve had a lot of refinery outages. Some of that seasonal, some of that due to an explosion in California, you`ve had a strike in the western part of the country. Right now, the incentive to produce gasoline using Brent Crude especially is about as high as it`s been in the past five years.

So, as soon as the refineries get back online, they will pump out a lot of gasoline and need a lot of crude to do it. I think that`s one thing. Another would be China. They`ve got a strategic petroleum reserve, much like the United States, which they just started not that long ago.
And they`ve got a lot of room still left to store more oil. And you`ve already heard some headlines around tankers heading to China. So, they could start to build that strategic petroleum reserve in a much bigger way.

So, those are a couple that I`ll throw out there. But also, you could see with Europe rebounding, a lot of demand on that side as well.

HERERA: Yes, what about the drop in oil that we`ve seen being somewhat disorderly? Although not extremely disorderly, but there is some worry out there that perhaps other asset classes might be affected by that.
Is that a worry for you?

SAMANA: You know, it`s always a concern. I mean, a lot of the financial crisis can be traced back and started to kind of spread outward.
So, you know, we always — you know, anytime a big liquid commodity like oil goes from $1.07 last year down to low 40s, you know, obviously, there`s going to be some pain. And then you start to wonder people are going to sell, let`s say stocks that have done really well, maybe they hold on to their oil. So, they sell their stocks.

So, you wonder, you know, maybe things might start to spread outward.
But at least right now, things are pretty good. You still see stocks and bonds both doing really well. So, it`s really isolated to energy right now.

MATHISEN: I thought it was interesting when you described why demand might come back. It really wasn`t with — apart from Europe, that you see the economies around the world strengthening in any big demand producing way.

SAMANA: They`re coming back, albeit slowly. I mean, that`s always how it works outside the U.S. as things come back a lot more slowly. And, you know, China is obviously a big issue right now with them guiding growth to about 7 percent.

But honestly, once their growth does start to stabilize, I think people might be surprised how quickly they come back, some of these commodity markets, and start to take advantage of the lower prices.

MATHISEN: Very, very quickly, where is the real pain point for this industry in terms of the price? Is it below $30 a barrel?

SAMANA: It seems like it really — you know, it`s in that mid-30s area, because if you start to look at the oil producers and who can really cut back, it`s going to be the nongovernmental producers, because, obviously, they`re very reliant on oil. They almost have to produce more when the prices go down.

But in the U.S., you`ve got the shale guys who, you know, are —


SAMANA: You know, it`s about kind of low 30s to high 70s is where they tend to produce. But really, it`s the mid-30s where they really pull back sharply.

MATHISEN: All right. Sameer Samana with Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) Investment Institute — thank you.

SAMANA: Thanks for having me.

HERERA: Another country feeling the pinch from cratering oil is Russia. The fallen oil is hurting that country`s currency and it`s hitting it very hard.

Geoff Cutmore is in Moscow.


GEOFF CUTMORE, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: If you just take a look at the performance of the Russian markets, whether it`s the ruble against the dollar, or MICEX, it is the falling oil price, again, that has done most damage over recent sessions, rather than speculation surrounding President Putin. The ruble has risen, as we know, since the five-year lows in 2014. The MICEX has been one of the better markets over the beginning of this year.

The disappearance, or otherwise that the president largely ignored by these markets. Today, though, we did find out the president is alive and well. He appeared at the press event, this meeting with the president of Kyrgyzstan. It was a scheduled event in his diary. So, he is well pushing speculation surrounding coups and his ill health.

Just one thing to note in passing, a little bit of disturbing news today — the northern fleet here has gone on military maneuvers, meaning the mobilization of 40,000 troops. Whilst Western leaders may have been uncomfortable with the story of the president`s disappearance, they`ll feel even more uncomfortable knowing that these maneuvers are taking place.

This is Jeff Cutmore for NIGHTLY BUSINES REPORT in Moscow.


MATHISEN: At least one positive in the oil patch to tell you about tonight, as the comeback continues in the Gulf of Mexico, nearly five years after that BP Deepwater Horizon accident. This time, it is Chevron
(NYSE:CVX) making a push deep into the Gulf.

The company has successfully launched its $4 billion Bigfoot platform. The platform is going to take eight to 10 days to reach its new home in the gulf. It`s towed out there. It`s approximately 225 miles south of New Orleans. It will be in a field containing an estimated 200 million-plus barrels of petroleum.

Chevron (NYSE:CVX) expects to see the first oil and gas from it later this year.

HERERA: Here we go again. The federal borrowing limit has been reach. And as we told you on Friday, the Treasury Department begun taking some steps to keep the government from running out of money.

So, now what?

Joining us is John Harwood from Washington tonight.

I guess that really is the key question, John, what happens next?

JOHN HARWOOD, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sue, as you just indicated, the Treasury Department has several months worth of what they call extraordinary measures, which prevent them from breaching that borrowing limit. We expect those though run out October, November maybe.

And then, you`re going to have the question of whether the Republican Party is going to try once again to go to battle with the administration over the debt limit. My bet is that they don`t, or they fake it for a while, and then cave. But we`re going to find out, and a lot of people getting nervous about it.

MATHISEN: How divided is the Republican caucus in the House and the Senate? Because on the one hand they tend to want to go back to those 2011 spending limits. On the other, they don`t want to be seen as shirking on expenditures for the military.

HARWOOD: Tremendously divided, Tyler, especially between their leadership, and the more vocal and active members of their base. Ted Cruz in the Senate, a couple dozen people in the House of Representatives.

Remember, we had a debt crisis in 2011, which ended up with a downgrade for the United States. Republicans decided at that time, hey, we can`t do that again. President Obama took a stance subsequently of saying I`m not negotiating over this, counting on Republicans to be afraid of that. That`s worked the last couple of times they`ve had to deal with the debt limit.

Now, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner said after they won both chambers of Congress, we`re not going to have any government shutdowns either. And we just flirted with one at the Department of Homeland Security.

So, it`s not clear whether the base is going to take the signal. But this is a more volatile issue. And I think the leadership is going to try harder to prevent it from blowing up.

HERERA: Right.

Is there any worry on the Hill that it could be destabilizing to the financial markets, John?

HARWOOD: No question. And the fear of the Republican Party is that they`re going to be pinned with the deep stabilization. But I can tell you that the White House is fairly saying, Gwen, yes, there will be noise made about this — ultimately, Republicans will back away from that fight.

HERERA: John Harwood, as always — John, thanks so.

MATHISEN: And coming up, how soaring rents are making an already crowded housing market even more crowded.


MATHISEN: U.S. home builders are feeling a little less confident these days. The industry sentiment index fell for the third straight month. The survey reflects builder confidence in putting up and selling newly built single family homes. Not the greatest sign as we close in on the peak spring selling season.

HERERA: But despite that dip in confidence, a surge in home buyer demand, especially among current renters is overwhelming the spring market.
With little for sale, buyers are crowding into open houses and bidding wars are back. So, what does it all mean?

Diana Olick has the story.


DIANA OLICK, NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a recent open house in northern New Jersey —

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s one of the nicest pieces of property.


OLICK: — the stories were remarkably similar.

MICHAEL CARROLL, HOME SEEKER: Along with the better market, there`s more competition. So —

MAX BUTE, HOME SEEKER: What we`re looking for was not there.

OLICK: City to city, neighborhood to neighborhood, spring demand is coming out with the sunshine, but there is too little for sale.

MARIA RINI, RE/MAX BERGEN COUNTY, NJ: Not just the inventory, but the fact that we anticipate that interest rates will rise. So, as the interest rates rise, and people fear losing those good rates, more houses get sold more quickly.

OLICK: Rising interest rates, and rising rents are pushing demand.
About 5.2 million, or more than 12 percent of current renters in the nation`s 20 largest markets say they plan to buy a home in the next year, according to a new survey. That`s a big jump from a year ago.

The trouble is, these renters are facing rising home prices in a still tight mortgage market. There are, however, new low down-payment options that have been slow to start, but which could help this spring.

MICHAEL HEID, PRESIDENT OF WELLS FARGO MORTGAGE: By the time you roll the systems out and start getting sales attention and customer attention, we`re only now really beginning to see some flow of activity coming into it.

OLICK: Which will only add to competition.

Ramez Farag and his wife Kim Mardenly sold their New Jersey home in just four days, expecting to buy another one quickly. That was January.

RAMEZ FARAG, HOME SEEKER: A lot of houses almost exclude because of people, you feel it`s putting houses out there in ridiculous numbers.
You`re going to have to eliminate that. They`re just throwing it out there.

But for realistic houses, realistic numbers, it`s not that much at all.

OLICK: They now have to move in with his mother while they continue their search.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Diana Olick in Washington.


MATHISEN: Valeant comes out on top as the takeover battle for Salix Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:SLXP). And that is where we begin tonight`s “Market Focus.”

Valeant upped its offer to more than $11 billion in cash, beating out Endo International for the maker of gastrointestinal drugs. Endo said that it still has a robust deal pipeline, hinting it may have other acquisitions in mind. Shares of all three companies ended higher today, as you see there.

General Electric (NYSE:GE) selling off another segment of its financial business for more than $6 billion. A group of investors will buy its consumer lending business in Australia and New Zealand. Shares of G.E.
up more than 1.5 percent to finish at $25.45.

Promising study results helped lift shares of Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN), Sanofi and Regeneron. All three drug makers are in the process of developing cholesterol treatments that could help cut in half the risk of heart attack and other heart ailments. Doctors say more testing is needed.
Still, shares of all three drug makers popped by more than 3 percent.

And Life Time Fitness (NYSE:LTM) is being taken private in a deal valued at over $4 billion. The gym operator has been under pressure from hedge fund Mercato Capital Management and said months back that it was exploring a potential sale of its property. The stock rose 5 percent to $70.68.

HERERA: An executive shuffle to tell you about. Sotheby`s named Madison Square Gardens CEO as its new president and chief executive. This as the auction house has been pressured by activists to increase profitability. Shares of Sotheby`s were 1 percent higher to close at $40.98.

Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) saw its shares tumble after an analyst downgrade. The research firm Evercore cut its rating to “sell” from “hold”, pointing to an intensely competitive environment for the video streaming service. The stock fell almost 4 percent to $421.97.

Investors getting a chance to react today to news that Avon Products
(NYSE:AVP) will be removed from the S&P 500. After being in the index for
50 years, the cosmetics company will be moved to a MidCap 400 Index at the close of trading on March 20th. It`s been one of the worst performers in the benchmark index. Today, it was the worst performer in the S&P 500, with shares falling almost 6 percent to $7.28.

And after the bell, Standard & Poor`s said American Airlines will be added to the S&P 500 after the close of trading on March 20th. It will replace Allergan (NYSE:AGN). S&P said the change is due to Actavis getting ready to complete its purchase of Allergan (NYSE:AGN).

Shares of American popped initially in after-hours trading. Before the close the stock was 2 percent higher to finish at $50.22.

Edwards Lifesciences (NYSE:EW) was today`s best performer in the S&P
500 on positive study results. It found, one of the medical device maker`s heat valves demonstrated lower death and stroke rates among patients. The company expects approval for U.S. patients next year. The shares surged about 10 percent to finish at $148.64.

MATHISEN: With hack attacks on the rise, so, too, is the number of companies buying cyber insurance.

Mary Thompson has more.


Another year of headline-grabbing cyber attacks on big name companies like Sony (NYSE:SNE), another year of double-digit growth for cyber insurance.

RANDY BINNER, FBR CAPITAL MARKETS & CO.: Cyber insurance could be one of the biggest opportunities in recent memory for the insurance market.

THOMPSON: A recently released survey by the insurance broker Marsh shows among its U.S. clients, first-time buyers rose 32 percent last year, building on a 21 percent increase in 2013.

Among the industry seeing the most growth and first-time buyers?
Hospitality and gaming, education and power and utility.

(on camera): In this data-driven world, information is increasingly valuable. A client or proprietary information a cyber theft could use for their own benefit, or to harm the company on their crosshairs.

(voice-over): A roughly $2 billion industry, cyber insurance is still in its infancy. The insurers offering these policies including AIG, Chubb (NYSE:CB) and Hartford, all continued to tweet their underwriting — changes analyst Randy Binner says it requires policy owners to make adjustments of their own.

BINNER: Even if they get an insurance policy to cover the cyber risk, the insurance company is going to require them to have processes, technology, reporting structures in place that help mitigate an event.

THOMPSON: Among other things, the policy should mitigate any disruption to a business, and the cost of helping customers impacted by an attack. But as the cost of the policies rise, Marsh said they rose 3 percent last year, Binner says some firms may choose to self-insure instead, posing a risk to the rapid growth of cyber insurance.



HERERA: It has been the launching point for some of technology`s hottest startups. So, what`s turning heads this year at South by Southwest? We`ll head there, next.


HERERA: Here`s what to watch tomorrow. The Federal Reserve begins its two-day meeting and everyone will be watching to see if the Central Bank removes the word patient from its statement, which could mean interest rate hikes are getting closer. On the data front, housing starts in February are due out. And after the market closes, Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) and Adobe will report earnings.

MATHISEN: The social media app Pinterest raised $367 million. That puts its valuation at a lofty $11 billion and makes it one of the most highly valued startups out there. A lot of people are talking about that.

A lot of people are also talking about South by Southwest. That`s the annual conference where members of the music, film and technology industries gather, and it`s where Twitter tipped to the mainstream and Foursquare made its name.

Julia Boorstin is there in Austin, tells us what`s the buzz this year.


The hottest app in South by Southwest allows people all around the world to feel like they`re here. It`s live streaming video app Meerkat.

KURT WAGNER, RECODE, SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR: Everybody`s talking about Meerkat — Meerkat, Meerkat, Meerkat. It`s a live streaming app. So, essentially, hold your phone up, broadcast whatever is in front of you, whatever you`re doing and people can follow you in real time. It`s like tuning into a personal TV channel for anyone with a smartphone.

BOORSTIN (on camera): But with prominent investor Bill Gurley warning of a startup bubble, South by Southwest wants to be more than the just latest social app. It`s aiming to be ground zero for truly revolutionary innovation.

(voice-over): In the spotlight, a robotics petting zoo, showcasing robots designed to help in disasters like hurricanes. But Field Innovation founder Desiree Matel-Anderson says that`s just the beginning.

DESIREE MATEL-ANDERSON, FIELD INNOVATION: They`re going to move at an exponential pace. And I`m sure that even in the next year, when we have this conversation again, you`ll probably have a robot.

BOORSTIN: Another winner of the convention`s first-time innovation award, a company whose 3D printers create flesh, printing out the likes of an ear.

DANNY CABRERA, BIOBOTS CEO: You can begin to replace cumbersome testing of animals, and for the first time ever, you can test compounds and drugs on three-dimensional human tissue, built out of human cells, without ever testing it on a human.

BOORSTIN (on camera): Surrounding all these entrepreneurs and innovations are big brands from Capital One and AT&T (NYSE:T), to Pepsi and Mazda. They`re here to reach out to the trendsetters, as well as pick up on some innovation themselves.

(voice-over): First-time sponsor McDonald`s (NYSE:MCD) is hosting pitch competitions for areas it wants to innovate in, including food packaging and delivery. One of its winners, HelloSponsor, helps brands monitor their event sponsorship activity.

GREG KUBRIN, HELLOSPONSOR: South by Southwest for McDonald`s
(NYSE:MCD) represents a really good opportunity for them to really engage with cutting edge innovation.

BOORSTIN: But in Austin, known for its foodie scene, McDonald`s
(NYSE:MCD) has drawn criticism for the way it`s handled its sponsorship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t really eat McDonald`s. I don`t like McDonald`s too much, kind of greasy.

BOORSTIN: But everybody wants in on the cutting edge ideas here at South by Southwest.

For NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT, I`m Julia Boorstin in Austin.


HERERA: And finally, the NCAA men`s basketball championship, or as you probably know it, March Madness, tips off this week. And Americans have a lot at stake. They will wager an estimated $9 billion on the tournament, according to the American Gaming Association, that is.

And if you think it doesn`t hit the bottom lines of businesses, nearly 80 million workers will waste at least an hour on March Madness on their boss` dime.

MATHISEN: That`s no waste. This is important.

HERERA: I was just going to say, we would never do this. But you don`t think it`s a waste, right?

MATHISEN: Oh, no. I`m pulling for Virginia.

That will do it for NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight. I`m Tyler Mathisen. Thanks for watching.

HERERA: I`m Sue Herera. Have a great evening, everyone. We will 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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