Transcript: Nightly Business Report — March 17, 2015

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

Stocks tumble as the Federal Reserve begins its two-day policy meeting as
investors wonder not only when the Fed may raise rates, but by how much and
for how long?

drop in housing starts. Many blame the winter weather, but is there
something bigger at play?

MATHISEN: Currency jolt. Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) becomes the latest
company to see its profits hit by a stronger dollar.

All that and more tonight on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for St. Patrick`s
Day, Tuesday, March 17th.

HERERA: Good evening, everyone. And welcome.

It was a day unlike other days before a Federal Reserve press
conference. Usually, it`s quiet and traders hesitate to take big position
ahead of the Central Bank chair`s question and answer session. But not

As the Fed`s two-day meeting got under way, the Dow Jones Industrial
Average saw a triple-digit decline, its seventh triple-digit move in the
past eight sessions. By the close, the blue chip index fell 128 points to
17,849. The NASDAQ rose about eight points. And the S&P 500 was off
nearly seven.

The Federal Reserve so far has been patient in raising interest rates.
But that could change tomorrow. As many speculate, the Central Bank is
laying the groundwork for its first hike in almost a decade.

Steve Liesman surveyed some of Wall Street`s top economists to see
what they`re expecting.


just eight letters, but there`s billions of dollars around the globe riding
on it. The Federal Reserve looks set to remove the word “patience” from
its statement — a word that is used to signal that there would be no rate
hike for at least two meetings. But 69 percent of respondents to the Fed
survey say the U.S. Central Bank will lose patience — that word that is —
and the pave the way for possible rate hikes in the months ahead. When?

Survey respondents (INAUDIBLE) ahead their expectation for the Fed`s
first rate hike in nine years to August of this year, from September. But
they see very gentle rate hikes. The Fed funds rate is forecast to be
below 2 percent at the end of 2016, and ratchet up to only 3 percent at the
end of 2017, both low by historical standards.

But not everyone thinks the Fed will be quite so easy.

STEPHEN STANLEY: I think the Fed has been slow to act and is a little
behind the curve, and as a result they may end up moving a little faster
than what the markets have priced in.

LIESMAN: In fact, 54 percent of respondents to the CNBC survey think
the Fed is too easy, that is behind the curve, the first time that number
has been above 50.

But complicating the Fed decision is a likelihood of declining
inflation, caused by lower oil prices and a strong dollar, which lowers
import prices. That could give the Fed pause from hiking rates too soon
because inflation will remain below its 2 percent target.

so much on the verge of raising rates right now. I think they want to. I
don`t think the data are going to accommodate it.

LIESMAN (on camera): But the Fed is only clearing the runway for a
rate takeoff by removing patience. How quickly rates take flight and how
high they soar. Well, that debate will begin nanoseconds after the Fed
releases its statement.



MATHISEN: Let`s turn now to our two economic experts who have
different points of view on how fast and how far they think rates will go.
Bob Brusca, whom you just saw in Steve`s report, he`s a familiar face —
chief economist with Fact and Opinion Economics. We asked him to bring all
his facts, all his opinions.

And Joel Naroff is president and chief economist at Naroff Economic

You two guys don`t agree here, not one bit as Dr. Seuss might have

Joel, let me start you. You see rates moving a quarter point at a
time, all the way through the end of next year, so we end up at 3.25
percent by Christmas of next year. You heard what Steve said. Do you
really believe that the Fed would risk slowing the economy in the face of
an election campaign and risk deflation by raising rates that far, that

think it`s that far, and I don`t think it is that fast. It`s a quarter a
point a meeting. We get eight meetings so you wind up with two percentage
points a year. If you think about it, people are panicking that the Fed
might be all the way at 1 percent by the end of this year.

The interest rates at 1 percent do not slow the economy down. It
doesn`t affect housing. It doesn`t affect business investment. It`s not
affecting the interest sensitive sectors.

So, I don`t think the Fed has to worry about it, and they have to get
going as far as getting rates back to normal.

HERERA: But, Bob, we heard a little bit of what you were saying in
Steve`s piece a moment ago. You`re not sure there really is solid economic
growth yet.

BRUSCA: I don`t think there is. There`s strong job growth by
numbers, but we know the job growth hasn`t been strong enough to push up or
average hourly earnings. We know productivity data have been poor. So,
the jobs being created have been low productivity jobs, not very high-
paying jobs.

We`re not getting — I don`t see where we have the income growth to
drive prices to create the inflation people are worried about. If you look
at inflation for the last 10 years, every year, from 10 years, nine years,
eight years, et cetera, in, you have inflation below 2 percent and falling
even more recently. I think the Fed is way overreacting, concerned that
all this liquidity is going to create some problem when, in fact, the Fed
is regulation the asset side of the balance sheets with its capital asset
ratios. There`s no danger whatsoever the banks are going to step up their
lending and create an inflation bubble.

MATHISEN: Joel, you must disagree.

NAROFF: I absolutely do. First of all, we`ve already begun to see
some of the changes as far as wages go. We`ve got Walmart and some other
companies are announcing they`re raising wages. That`s going to have to be

And I think that we`re also misunderstanding the relationship between
productivity and wages. We have a simple relationship — wages equals
price times marginal productivity. But the reality in the real world is
that over the last almost decade now, workers have found that if they don`t
work harder, they don`t get higher wages. So, they don`t work harder.

That`s part of the reason productivity has been so weak. It`s not
because we`re hiring people into lower paying, lower productivity
positions. You look at where the jobs are. They`re across the board.
It`s the fact that there`s no incentive to work harder and create greater
productivity because about the wage gains don`t follow. That`s what`s
being missed by this analysis.

HERERA: Bob, talk to me about the dollar and the strength of the
dollar. Some say that`s a de facto tightening and it kind of frees the fed
up to wait longer if they want to wait. And at the same time, it`s not
just the strength of the dollar but the velocity of the move in the dollar
that`s somewhat worrisome to some on the streets.

BRUSCA: That`s always the problem. I mean, you can look at this
domestic dynamic that Joel`s talking about. You can try to argue, you
know, is the dog chasing the tail or is the tail chasing the dog.

The problem is there is all this international competition because of
the strong dollar. What`s happening is labor in the United States is
getting increasingly expensive. Labor abroad is getting increasingly low.
In addition, we have this low oil price thing in the mess that`s decimating
the U.S. energy sector, which is a relatively high paid sector.

And so, you put all these things together. You have the U.S. and this
economy, this global economy that is not growing fast where Europe is
challenged, China is challenged, Japan is talking about going back to the
zero percent inflation.

Europe is hoping like crazy that they print up the quantitative easing
so something good will happen, you know? And it just doesn`t look like
those pieces are coming together.

So, I don`t think there`s global demand. I don`t think there`s
domestic demand. I don`t think there`s domestic income.

And again, the Fed is basically regulating banks by looking at their
asset side and controlling asset ratios. There`s not going to be a lending
bubble. We`re not going to see this price inflation. You can raise
minimum wage at Walmart, but you`re not really going to create any wage
inflation in the U.S. It won`t happen and the strong dollar is one of the
reasons why.

MATHISEN: Joel, let`s turn to housing. We saw weak housing start
numbers this morning and the housing market has not been really terribly
robust for a variety of reasons.

What would rising interest rates do to housing? And I believe you
think it might actually rather perversely give it a boost?

NAROFF: I absolutely do.

First of all, I don`t think this report was weak as far as the housing
market is concerned. You know, what we`ve learned a long time ago is that
builders don`t speculate anymore and permits went up. If permits went up,
they expect to use them. Look for housing starts to surge.

But the other aspect about the housing market is that we have half a
generation now that has looked at either mortgage rates going down or being
flat, and they`re low. They don`t even think about the idea of mortgage
rates rising, so they`re taking their own sweet time as far as buying is

When mortgage rates start buying, buyers are going to have to say to
their selves, before things is get away, I better make that decision.

MATHISEN: I take your point on housing permits being a better measure
that in housing starts.

Joel, thank you very much. Interesting conversation, gentlemen. Bob
Brusca, Joel Naroff, next time we`ll do this in a cage match kind of
setting. Appreciate it.


BRUSCA: Oh, good.

MATHISEN: All righty.

A drop in housing starts as I mentioned last month. According to the
Commerce Department, groundbreakings on new homes fell by 17 percent in
February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 897,000. That was well
below expectations, the lowest level in more than a year with both single
and multi-family housing, losing much of the weakness — much of the
weakness being blamed on weather, of course. But there could be something
bigger at play.

And Diana Olick is on to it.


sharp drop in construction of new homes. It`s adding insult to injury in a
spring market suffering from a lack of property for sale. Some blame bad
weather, but it`s likely more than that.

DAVID CROWE, NAHB CHIEF ECONOMIST: It`s consumers still feeling some
reluctance of coming back into the market. Certainly, we were missing the
first-time buyers. So, that`s been a big loss all along.

OLICK: Still, some are blaming colder than average temperatures and
heavy snow for the huge drop in total starts.

JOSEPH LAVORGNA: February housing starts were down 17 percent, but
permits were up 3 percent. That tells me there was a clear weather effect
in the data as permits would not be distorted as were starts.

OLICK: But looking just at construction of single-family homes, which
are most desperately needed, the picture is less optimistic. Single-family
starts fell dramatically and building permits, an indicator of future
construction, were down 7 percent.

Builders whose confidence on their market has been falling for three
straight months are being very careful, watching meager foot traffic and
it`s just construction of speculative home, or those without contract
buyers, accordingly.

CROWE: The builders that are still standing are those that made it
through that terrific downfall, that huge collapse, the worst in their
lives. And so, they`re in general by definition of making it through
there, a little more conservative.

OLICK: Pennsylvania-based builder Hovnanian is dropping the number of
so-called spec homes it`s building by 8 percent.

CEO Ara Hovnanian explained on a recent earnings call.

ARA HOVNANIAN, PRESIDENT & CEO: Still believe it is prudent to
maintain a few, started, unsold homes in many of our communities to satisfy
demand from buyers who are looking for a quicker closing date. However,
we`ll be more selective on where and how many are built.

OLICK (on camera): Builders say they`re now saying more buyers
begging for a deal. But they claim it`s just not possible. Not with the
cost of everything going up. I asked one builder why he didn`t just build
cheaper homes.

He answered — where would I find cheap land?

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


HERERA: And now to the oil market`s volatile session. And Brent
which closed up for the first time in four days while West Texas
Intermediate fell on supply concerns. WTI finished the session down 42
cents to $43.46. That`s another six-year low. After the market settled,
the American Petroleum Institute reported another surge in inventories.

MATHISEN: On Capitol Hill, House Republicans unveiled their 10-year
budget plan. Chairman Tom Price says the proposal will not only cut
spending but help create a surplus by 2026.


REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: Our balanced budget for a stronger
America saves $5.5 trillion, gets the balance within ten years without
raising taxes. We responsibly lay out a plan for a healthy economy, an
opportunity economy, one that opens the doors for people, not subjects them
to the dictates of Washington, D.C.


MATHISEN: The plan calls for a full repeal of the Affordable Care
Act, an overhaul of the tax system and partly privatizing Medicare. The
GOP budget also increases spending for the military.

HERERA: The head of the Securities and Exchange Commission says her
agency will develop stricter rules for brokers. At a conference today,
Mary Jo White called for new regulations that would require brokers to put
their clients` interests ahead of their own, a so-called a fiduciary
standard. It`s a topic the president talked about last month, and it`s an
issue we`ve discussed here on NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT.

The SEC has been studying the subject for years, but so far has not
taken any action.

MATHISEN: Still ahead, can Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shake up the
television industry? What the technology company reportedly plans to do as
soon as this fall.


HERERA: Foreign exchange swings cost U.S. companies nearly $19
billion in revenue in the fourth quarter. That`s according to a new report
by currency risk management consulting FiREapps. The average negative
currency was more than double what it was for the prior two years, and the
report goes on to say that the negative impact will likely worsen in the
first quarter of this year.

MATHISEN: And now to Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) which said today its
profits were hurt at least at the margins by the rising dollar. The
software company reported earnings per share of 68 cents. That was in line
with Wall Street estimates. Revenue though missed. Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL)
earned $9.3 billion in its fiscal third quarter, that`s slightly below
expectations. That`s the revenue number.

Nonetheless, investors did like what they saw as you see there, the
stock moved higher initially in after-hours trading. The company also
increased its quarterly dividend by 25 percent.

Dominic Chu has been looking through the release.

What`s the key takeaway here? Is it currency or something else?

always going to be a big part of the story for any of these large
multinational companies, especially technology software-oriented ones that
do a lot of their business outside. The key take-away for the currency
side is that this will be a persistent issue and you`ll expect it going

What`s more interesting about the story and why investors may be more
bullish on Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) is not what they necessarily said about the
currency, but what they said about cloud computing. And Cloud computing is
just a fancy way of saying, small, medium and business sized customers can
actually put all of their technology infrastructure in the hands of an IBM,
an Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL), or a Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and then pay by the
use. That`s the key. And Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) says it`s growing that
business by about 30 percent over the same period last year.

Now, mind you, this is a small fractional part of their business, only
about 4 percent right now.

MATHISEN: Cloud is.

HERERA: Growth rate.

MATHISEN: Cloud is. But it`s a huge deal, because in the statement
and earnings.

The founder of the company, Larry Ellison, the billionaire founder of
the company and chief technology officer, said specifically that the
company is on pace to earn a billion dollars in Cloud-based computing
revenues for this year. And he called out (NYSE:CRM), one
of their main competitors, by name in saying that this was a race between
us and them, and we think that we`re going to win. In Essence, oracle is
going to beat out (NYSE:CRM).

So, if you want to know where the energy and focus is, it is in this
Cloud computing, just like it is for IBM, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and all
these other big players.

MATHISEN: All right, Dom, thank you very much. Dominic Chu.

HERERA: Well, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is reportedly planning to launch an
online television service that could be another step in further shaking up
an industry already in flux. As first reported by “The Wall Street
Journal,” Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is in talks with some major networks to offer
consumers a slimmed-down bundle as soon as this fall. Shares of Apple
(NASDAQ:AAPL) rose almost 2 percent today to $127 a share.

And as Josh Lipton reports, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) television`s ambitions
could be a win for the company`s hardware devices.


TIM COOK, APPLE CEO: Now, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) TV has become the
category leader.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) could be about to invade your living room. The company
is reportedly in talks with programmers to offer an online TV service,
which would include about 25 channels anchored by broadcasters such as ABC,
CBS (NYSE:CBS), and FOX. The price of the service could be about $40 per

Apple`s executives know that TV viewing behavior has changed
dramatically. And consumers want to watch what this he want, when they
want, and where they want. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is in a unique position to
meet that demand with a range of devices, including Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) TV,
its set-top box, as well as iPhones and iPads. An online TV service could
help Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) sell more of those devices.

WALTER PIECYK, BTIG: I think that creates a larger ecosystem is
ultimately about where it generates profits. Tablets, remember, has been
one of those disappointing products for them because growth is now
negative. So, if this service actually gets you to buy more tablets or
more iPads, that`s obviously a benefit.

LIPTON: There are channels for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), as it considers
launching this Web TV service. For example, the service reportedly doesn`t
involve NBC Universal (NYSE:UVV) because of a falling out between Apple
(NASDAQ:AAPL) and NBC Universal`s parent company, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA)

And Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has plenty of competition in this space. Dish
Network, for instance, offers a web-based service called Sling TV for $20 a
month. And Sony (NYSE:SNE) is also launching an Internet-only subscription

Still, despite these hurdles, analysts covering Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)
say investors should cheer this development.

PIECYK: It is great news that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) can find these new
revenue opportunities above and beyond the strong profitability of their

LIPTON (on camera): A streaming service may be just the beginning.
Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) develops software, services and hardware. And that`s
why Wall Street still thinks it is possible that the company could
ultimately make and sell its very own television.

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


HERERA: As mentioned in Josh`s report, Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA)
(NYSE:CCS) is the parent company of NBC Universal (NYSE:UVV) and CNBC,
which produces this program.

MATHISEN: You have to decide for yourself whether Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)
TV or any of its correlates is a good deal. The most recent data show the
average American household receives nearly 190 channels on its system and
pays about $65 a month for it. The Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) service, as Josh
reported, with 25 channels, is said to cost about $40 a month.

But will the mini or skinny bundles offer what you are looking for?

Well, one option is Dish Network`s Sling TV. It`s already streaming
17 networks, including ESPN and CNN for $20 a month. But it does not
include the broadcast networks.

Sony (NYSE:SNE) plans to begin testing its version called PlayStation
Vue this spring, with up to 75 channels. But Sony`s been vague on pricing
so far.

Whatever the content costs, don`t forget that you have to add the
price of your Internet service, your broadband, because you won`t be able
to watch any of these services without it.

HERERA: Adobe`s out (INAUDIBLE) better than expected results and
that`s where we begin tonight`s “Market Focus.”

The PhotoShop maker`s profits rose, helped by an increase in
subscriptions, as customers pay for the company`s software monthly, instead
of buying it outright.

But it is forecasting lower than expected second quarter sales and
profits. Shares fell initially in after-hours trading. Before the close,
the stock was almost 2 percent higher to $79.66.

Shares of MGM Resorts (NYSE:MGM) surging on this down day, as an
activist made an investor presentation advocating the company convert into
a real estate investment trust or a REIT. The firm saying MGM could unlock
shareholder value and it wants to nominate members for the company`s board.
The stock rose 10.5 percent to $21.74.

DSW (NYSE:DSW) beat the street`s estimates on both the top and bottom
lines. The shoe retailer also saw same-store sales rise. It will hike its
dividend to 20 cents a share. Now, its dividend yield is right around 2
percent. The stock rose 4 percent to $38.33.

MATHISEN: Burlington Stores is another retailer that impressed
investors with strong results today. Earnings jumped nearly 50 percent in
the January quarter on a rise in sales over the holidays. The company did
tone down its earnings and revenue outlook for the full year. Still,
shares were 2 percent higher. They ended the day at $58.59.

Macerich (NYSE:MAC) has rejected a takeover offer from Simon Property
Group (NYSE:SPG). We told you about that one last week. The mall operator
saying the bid worth about $14 billion substantially undervalues the
company. Macerich (NYSE:MAC) also adopted a shareholder rights plan that
stops an investor from buying more than 10 percent of the company. That`s
to protect itself from a hostile takeover. Shares of both of those mall
operators closed a little bit lower today.

HERERA: Coming up, the future of franchises. Are they small
businesses or are they part of a larger company? The issue is a legal one
and it`s coming to a head in Seattle.


HERERA: Here`s a look at what to watch tomorrow.

The big event of the week: and the Federal Reserve issues its policy
statement. And Chair Janet Yellen holds a press conference.

FedEx (NYSE:FDX) often viewed as a barometer of the economy reports
earnings before the opening bell.

And Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) joins the Dow, replacing AT&T (NYSE:T) after
the close of trading.

MATHISEN: The unemployment rate in 24 states fell in January,
according to the Labor Department. North Dakota had the nation`s lowest
jobless rate, 2.8 percent, a sign that layoffs in the energy sector are yet
to have a major impact there. Rates rose in just eight states with
Mississippi, Nevada recording the highest level of joblessness at 7.1

HERERA: Seattle is getting ready to roll out the nation`s biggest
minimum wage hike, but not without a fight. At the center of a legal
battle is whether franchises are small independent businesses or whether
they are part of a much larger network. The answer could have a big impact
on how they do business.

Kate Rogers (NYSE:ROG) has more.


franchisees big or small businesses? It depends on who you ask in Seattle,
where a fight is under way over when franchise owners should have to comply
with the city`s minimum wage hikes. Under a June 2014 ordinance in
Seattle, franchisees are deemed large employers, along with businesses that
have 500-plus workers. This means they will increase wages to $15 an hour
by 2017.

Small businesses with fewer than 500 workers have until 2021 to hit
that level. Phases of the wage hike kick in on April 1st at $11 an hour
for large employers and $10 an hour for small employers.

The catch is that franchisees are considered large employers even if
they have fewer than 500 workers. Some franchisees say the move creates an
uneven playing field, causing them to raise prices more quickly to account
for wage likes than their small business competitors.

Global industry groups, the International Franchise Association,
opposes that portion of the law and sued this city last year, along with
five franchise owners, claiming franchisees should be considered small

Matthew Haller, IFA spokesman says, a decision is imminent and could
temporarily suspend a portion of the law that impacts when franchisees
raise wages, lumping them in with small businesses.

MATT HALLER, IFA: We believe the ordinance is discriminatory, it`s
unfair, and we are simply seeking equal treatment for the franchisees to be
properly categorized as the small businesses that they are.

ROGERS: But some argue franchises can better absorb cost as they are
part of big brand corporations and have access to their resources and

JENNIFER ERICKSON: The notion that they are akin to a mom and pop
sandwich counter, I just don`t think that that holds water.

ROGERS (on camera): In a statement, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray`s office
says that it stands by its decision to treat franchisees as large
employers, saying, quote, “Under the ordinance, franchises are treated as
large businesses because they receive the benefits of being associated with
a large franchise or network of many more than 500 employees.”



HERERA: And to find out more about how franchisees are fighting the
minimum wage hike in Seattle, you can head to our Web site,

And that does it for NIGHTLY BUSINESS REPORT for tonight. I`m Sue
Herera. Thanks for joining us.

MATHISEN: And I`m Tyler Mathisen. Thanks for me as well. Have a
great evening, everybody. And we will see you tomorrow right here. We`re
taking (INAUDIBLE).


Nightly Business Report transcripts and video are available on-line post
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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
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